The real reasons people say "Happy Holidays"
Greg at The Talent Show has a wonderful post on the stupidity behind the efforts to get people to quit saying "Happy Holidays", on the theory that Christmas is no mere holiday, but in fact a day when we honor the efforts of the wingnuts to turn us into a theocracy.
Okay, this whole "Happy Holidays" jihad is confusing me. As far as I can remember, people have been saying "HH" for many, many years now. Every time I've heard it, regardless of who's speaking it, I've always interpreted it as an act of kindness that's meant to imply "I know we may have different beliefs, but I hope your celebration is a happy one." Of course, with New Years in the mix, it's more than a pleasant inter-faith greeting. "Happy Holidays" is a nice, sincere expression of the whole season.
And there's probably something to that. Certainly, the stores who put up "Happy Holidays" signs and other businesses like TV stations are deliberately trying to avoid alienating people. But I think that there's two much simpler reasons that people say "Happy Holidays" now more than "Merry Christmas".
1) Christmas is only one day a year, but we keep up the holiday spirit for a month + 1 week. The holidays is the season between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. While it insults our American sensibilities to have extended periods of the year where people party too much, eat too much, and are generally cheerful like everyone else likes to do it, it's still a fact. They don't have articles about how to keep off the pounds during the holidays in women's magazines to address overeating on one day out of the year. It's the onslaught of parties and dinners that pack on the pounds. You know, over the course of weeks.
The holidays aren't just about baby Jesus. For instance, New Year's Eve is about trying to stand next to the person you're crushing on at midnight in order to kiss him/her first, hopefully pissing off anyone else who wanted to kiss that person at midnight. And December 26th is about taking back all those shitty gifts that your well-meaning but clueless relatives gave you and getting something you really like. It's also about buying a bunch of stuff on sale.
2) Frankly, "Merry Christmas" is an archaic phrase that just doesn't roll off the tongue. C'mon! When do you heard the word "merry" outside of the LOTR trilogy? And even those movies came out around Christmas, so as not to cause massive cognitive dissonance when that word came out of the actors' mouths.
Meanwhile, "Happy Holidays" sounds just right to people. "Happy" is a common enough word. Hell, "happiness" is right there in our Declaration of Independence, meaning that people are probably just being patriotic when they ask you to be happy. And "holidays", which means "days off of work" to Americans, are a naturally happy time. Frankly, being against "Happy Holidays" is being against everything dear to America. True patriots say "Happy Holidays!"