One of the people with whom I rarely find myself in conflict with (and in fact still don't even though they have prompted this post) has written that:
"Happy Holidays" is a recognition that Christians are not the only ones celebrating a major festival at this time of year. In a multifaith society this is important.
Its origins are, I believe, in the US where the significance of the Jewish community's celebration of Hanukah is acknowledged. Of course, here we also have Diwali which seems to move about a bit date-wise but occurs mid-winterish. This doesn't (or shouldn't) stop Christians witnessing to the birth of our Saviour, but I am always very pleased to receive my annual card from a local Islamic organisation wishing me "Happy Holidays"."
He also writes that Birmingham's failed 'Winterval festival' (which I have dealt with before) was never intended to replace or redefine Christmas and I have acknowledged (more than once) that it was nothing more than a bit of cynical marketing to try and attract various of the major faiths (and those of no faith) into Brum for a bit of shopping and perhaps even a spot of culture! The goal was to develop an extended period of commercial opportunity by stretching things from Diwali to Christmas [and perhaps beyond]) not create, or do away with, any of the festivals but as it wasn't going to mention any by name any longer, this would still have been the outworking even if not the desire!
Anyway, all I said was (tempted to do 'Life of Brian' here, but will resist) that it was cynical (and it was) just as the 'Happy Holidays' tosh is pretty much an exercise in cynicism, too!
So let's look at the 'including all faiths' piece of 'Happy Holidays' for 2012. It appears to encompass:
Diwali = 13th - 17th November (at the very earliest edge of things)
Hanukkah = 8th - 16th December (some early coalescence)
Advent = 2nd - 24th December
Christmas = Christmas Eve to Epiphany (6th January)
For so many of us these days Christmas starts early. Where I live our town's Christmas lights went on on the 17th November and the week leading up to that saw a christmas tree festival in the parish church too! I have Jewish friends and whilst they are happy to get Christmas cards along with their Hanukkah cards, they are very definite that it is not 'Happy Holidays' either.
And regardless of whatever reason some might have introduced this into the US the reality is that for many it is more about not doing the 'Christ' word and that for me is more than sad making - it is something much, much, much (overactive Police Academy gene - sorry) worse at a number of levels for a number of reasons:
A couple of years back I was wished 'HH' by one of the members of a call centre and upon asking why they'd done it was told that it was company policy because it was less offensive to people who didn't celebrate it. Being that sort of a person I rang the head office and eventually got through to someone who informed me that it was policy so as not to offend the many 'non-religious people' who might find the Christian festival offensive that it was merely referred to as 'holiday'.
"Are there many of them? " I asked. The person on the other end said they weren't sure but it was company policy and had come from 'someone upstairs'. So I ask to speak to someone in that place and eventually found myself chatting to a director (about thirty minutes) who listened and promised that, on the balance of our conversation, they would revisit their policy. I left assured (in my mind) that nothing would really happen and was stunned when I got a call from the same call centre to be wish a 'merry Christmas'.
As for being offensive my many friends and acquaintances from other faiths not only insist on referring to Christmas but have also been extremely vocal (and far more active than the Christians) when they have perceived that Christmas might be being weakened or threatened. The reality being that members of the world faiths (and that include a great number of Muslims by the way in case there are any Daily Fascist readers visiting) are supportive of those who hold other beliefs. It is called tolerance - something that many secularists and humanists appear to know nothing about!
With that I take this early opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderfully blessed and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year.