Christmas is the time for family, friends, lights, and celebration. However, the month of December is also the time of celebration for other holidays including Hanukah, Kwanza, and Winter Solstice. For many homeowners, November 1st symbolizes the beginning of Christmas. They begin hanging Christmas lights and decorating their trees. However, for many retail stores, Christmas begins as early as-mid November. Unfortunately, many Canadians, and even Americans, have expressed over social media that they believe Christmas is being taken away from them. Older Canadians, such as Leanne Humphrey, a Walmart worker and greeter, can recall “the old way” for wishing someone a happy season, back when the words “Merry Christmas” weren’t so offensive. Now, many Christmas shoppers wander the different stores carrying tinsel and ornaments while wearing a small pin that reads “it’s ok, wish me a Merry Christmas.”
The words “Happy Holidays,” seem to be more offensive to North Americans than “Merry Christmas.” In 2013, CBC conducted an online poll asking Canadians if they preferred to be wished a Happy Holiday or a Merry Christmas. Almost 4,000 people took part in the online vote and of that, 87 per cent claimed that they preferred to be wished a Merry Christmas.
Poll courtesy of CBC
Similarly, Global News also opened a poll asking the same question. The poll is still open, and so far 92 per cent of voters claimed that they also preferred to be wished a Merry Christmas.
Poll courtesy of Global News as of 12/10/15
However, despite the fact that Canadians may be expressing their loyalty to the phrase “Merry Christmas,” retail stores including Walmart, still restrict employees from saying the words to avoid offending anyone who does not partake in the Christmas holiday. Humphrey says that although she personally prefers the term “Merry Christmas,” her workplace forces her to wish customers a Happy Holiday instead. She believes that Walmart, as well as other retail and customer service stores, realize that there are people of different religions and faiths and that these workplaces do not want to offend their customers.
Although many workplaces stress over offending customers, some workplaces do not. Brittney Bielawski, assistant manager of the Bowmanville Dollar Tree, believes that it does not matter what you wish someone and that those who complain about being wished a Merry Christmas are bringing down others’ Christmas spirit. “If you don’t like it, don’t say it back. Simple as that,” she says, admitting that she has wished customers a Merry Christmas. “I think more people are annoyed of Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas,” she says.
Even though the month of December sees an eclectic group of religions celebrating different holidays, many non-Christians seem to not have a problem with the phrase “Merry Christmas.” E.P Taylor’s security guard, Matthew Gorlick does not celebrate Christmas instead he celebrates Hanukah. “Christmas isn’t Christian anymore,” Gorlick says, “it’s about the kids, the family get-togethers, and the lights, and all that. Hanukah is the same thing. It literally means the festival of lights.” Gorlick jokes about a time when he was wished a Merry Christmas by an employee at the LCBO. “I turned to him and corrected him saying ‘Happy Holidays,’ then winked and laughed as I left,” he says. Gorlick is not offended when wished a Merry Christmas, he sees it as being wished a happy season.
Shaquille Price and Erin Abbott both agree with Gorlick. “There’s a lot of different holidays around this time. People don’t acknowledge that there are other holidays,” Price says. Abbott agrees by saying that Merry Christmas offends people’s religions although she believes it really shouldn’t. Both side with Gorlick by saying that wishing someone a Merry Christmas is the same as wishing him or her a happy season. They also say that they do not care which phrase an employer uses.
While many non-religious individuals, as well as some religious individuals, including Jewish, may not have a problem with either phrase, many Christians do. On November 5th, public figure and Christian, Joshua Feuerstein, who has over 1.8 million likes on his Facebook page, uploaded a video about his views on the Starbucks red holiday cup. He opened his video by asking viewers “do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups?” He continues by saying that Starbucks employees are not allowed to wish their customers a Merry Christmas. Feuerstein decided that he did not want to boycott the company but he would rather begin a movement. He went to his local Starbucks and when asked his name for his order, he told the employee his name was “Merry Christmas,” therefore when he drink was ready, the employee would be forced to say the phrase out loud.
Feuerstein’s red cup video has over 16.7 million views and over half a million shares in just over a month. In the video, he says he hopes to start a trend on social media with the hash tag “#MerryChristmasStarbucks” where he encourages other Christians to follow his actions in forcing Starbucks employees to say the words “Merry Christmas.” Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks’ vice president of design and content said in a statement, three days after Feurstein’s video was posted, that Starbucks “wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories. He claims that the company got the idea to introduce the plain red cup from its customers who have been doodling designs on the regular white cups for many years.
Although many retail and customer service employees try their best to not offend their customers, especially around Christmas time, they continue to struggle with how to wish someone a happy season. Who knows, maybe employees of different businesses will soon be left having to wish customers a “good day” year round.