The flowchart for dealing with greetings this holiday season

by Joey deVilla on December 8, 2013

holiday greeting flowchart

Click on the chart to see it at full size.

This chart, created by Dave Lieberman, captures my thinking — and really, the right thinking, if you think about it or even think at all  — about greetings during this holiday seasons, whether it’s Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, Have a Great Festivus, or whatever:

If you can’t see past the words of the wish to its good intent, it’s not the holiday well-wisher who’s broken, it’s you.

With the incredibly rare pathological exception (Tory MP Brian Pallister, I’m looking right at you), most people who extend holiday greetings have kind and noble intentions, and if you see a crusade in “Merry Christmas” or blasphemy in “Happy Holidays”, here’s a suggestion: take a deep breath and think about it for a moment. If that doesn’t work, take another deep breath. And if that still doesn’t work, go punch yourself in the face a half-dozen times, because you need it.

Thanks to Dave Lieberman for the creation, and Mark Cidade for the find!

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen November 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

I LOVE Ivy and I LOVE Karen. No, you cannot know I’m Jewish just by looking at me. That’s why, unless you DO know I’m Jewish or happen to notice the star around my neck, you should wish me a nice or happy holiday. Do NOT assume I celebrate as you do, because there are 7,000,000,000 people in this world . . . maybe SOME of us don’t believe as you do. His name notwithstanding, I guarantee you that Dave Leiberman, the creator of this meme, is a Christian.

Misty November 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

This is a non-issue. I’ve asked a lot of people and none have ever known of someone to be offended by being wished Merry Christmas or anything else. Where are all these supposed people that dont just say “thank you”? I haven’t met anyone that has come across them. I dont celebrate and I always respond with a heartfelt thank you. The only problem has been the occasional person that is offended I didn’t say Merry Christmas in return.

George Brown November 23, 2014 at 4:41 am

All holidays are made up. Whether they were made up in 1966 or 410 or -2500, they all have equal merit.

People are welcome to wish me Happy or Merry or Joyous whatever, and I will appreciate it. Or they can flip me “The Bird”, because in my world it means “Thanks and Good Luck”, whether they intend it or not.

Tammy November 23, 2014 at 8:13 am

Isn’t it nice when a complete stranger takes a few seconds out of their day to address you & wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or whatever instead of walking by as if you do not exist?
I think so!
Happy Holidays everyone & stay safe!

diane November 23, 2014 at 1:43 pm

OMG can people just get over themselves..we have said Merry Christmas for years..I t does not hurt anyone…If you do not celebrate Christmas so what? do not ..let people enjoy their holiday AS THEY CHOOSE…This is Canada and we have always said Merry Christmas…IF YOU MOVE HERE AND DO NOT LIKE IT THEN STAY HOME

Karen November 23, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Why am I able to read only three of the comments?

Julie November 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Unfortunately, I have heard people hiss “It’s Merry CHRTISTMAS” when wished a heartfelt Happy Holidays. I honestly have never heard anyone challenge Merry Christmas – so I don’t buy that argument that there is a War on Christmas. I agree with the poster that criticized the commercial interests that tell their employees not to utter the word Christmas, while cashing in on it hand over fist. Does anyone know if retailers have truly issued that declaration? (First hand, not from Fox “News”?) I work in healthcare and patients sometimes ask if we’ve been told not to wish people Merry Christmas. Of course, we have not. Most Happy Holidays types are just trying to be inclusive. Why does everything NICE have to be politicized one way or the other?

Laura November 24, 2014 at 10:13 am

Yep! And they forgot one. Have a Blessed Yule – Pagan/Wiccan. Celebrated on December 21st.

Raye November 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Not sure how I feel about agoraphobia being used there, since that can actually impair the ability to speak to a stranger regardless of intended greetings or time of year, but a good chart otherwise. ^^ Happy Holidays!

Jewels November 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm

This is great! I wished my newly found 2nd cousin a happy snowball fight!

Ed Hare December 1, 2014 at 4:32 am

I love it. If I wish someone a Merry Christmas and they respond with a Happy Hannukah, I will simply respond, “And the same to you, sir,” and be honored that someone chose to share a bit of their own faith, their own culture and that small part of their personal self with me.

The good news is that I really believe that most people feel this way. If we do meet the rare soul who becomes offended that some parts of the world are predominantly one faith or another, so they encounter greetings expressed in the symbols of a faith different from his or her own, rather than responding to their offense with our own, we can happily say that we share our own excitement for the spirit of the season in our way, but truly love it when people are also enthusiastic about their own different ways, so we welcome expressions of joy and faith no matter how they are expressed.

I personally love that God is big enough to express Himself in so many ways, because God really is big enough to hold it all.

Joy Harmon December 1, 2014 at 9:48 am


AH December 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

There is an alternative to what this post recommends.

As a member of a religious affiliation that is a minority affiliation (i.e., I am not a Christian), it is irritating when someone assumes something about me that I am not. Wishing a random person a Merry Christmas assumes that everyone is part of the dominant tradition when that’s not really true.

People who do so aren’t being mean even though it is a bit inconsiderate. Since there is no reason to be mean in response, I usually say “Thanks – I don’t actually celebrate Christmas but I appreciate the sentiment. Hope you have a Merry Christmas yourself.” That conveys the message that the wisher shouldn’t simply assume things about strangers while at the same time being, I think, friendly and positive-spirited.

Carrie Anne December 8, 2014 at 9:08 pm

And I think that is the point of the chart and article. I think a person that wishes you good tidings of any part of the year is just being friendly and not inconsiderate at all.

saintsithney December 11, 2014 at 2:25 am

The entire debate can be solved with a snippet from “Winnie the Pooh” when Pooh discovers it is Eeyore’s birthday:

“Many happy returns of the day, Eeyore!”
“And many happy returns to you, Pooh.”
“But it isn’t my birthday.”
“No, it’s mine.”
“But you said many happy returns…”
“Well, why not? You don’t always want to be miserable on my birthday do you?”

If I wish you to have a Merry Christmas, that is my hope that you have a wonderful December 25th, whatever you’re doing. If you return with Happy Hannukah, Blessed Yule, or anything but “Buzz off”, I will be happy. It is not supposed to be about enforcing culture, but sharing it. If you don’t celebrate my holiday, I hope you still have a happy day that day.

J December 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

“Hail Hydra!”

“Thanks–and also to you!”

janee December 18, 2014 at 12:21 am

You forgot Islam and Ramadan

Dummy December 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Except Ramadan is in June/July timeframe…but otherwise, great point! Der.

Lois Hellman January 11, 2015 at 8:30 pm

actually the Muslim calendar is lunar and has no leap days. Therefore Ramadan moves around the secular calendar as the years go by. My friends appreciate hearing Eid Mubarak even when the date might be at the “wrong time.”

Vanda November 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm

I see it in this way. Saying Merry Christmas means something , the logic that people don’t mean it or that other salutations are more meaningful is biased and very narrow minded . For example , I found this post on face book and the person who posted it talked about how easy it is to just respect each others rights but then he follows it up with some nasty assed comments about a particular person who belongs to a certain group and I am left wondering if he posted it because he truly believed it , wanted it or was he just aiming to target people. If you believe in something don’t act all self righteous and follow it with hatred. They said that” respecting each others faith is easy to do people ” , like see watch me!!! I can do it . Yet his hate tells a whole other story. So I believe that whatever you say in Canada about Merry Christmas it is with just that. No disrespect , just have a great Christmas.

MojoGuru November 9, 2015 at 3:09 am

Ramadan can fall during any month of the year.

Eileen VB November 9, 2015 at 11:35 am

When I worked in retail I often just said “Enjoy your Holiday!” Its simple and doesn’t presume what or any religion the receiver is.

Catherine November 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I wish most people “have a nice Christmas”. Take it or leave it

Paul November 10, 2015 at 9:48 am

Happy Veteran’s Day is appropriate and well deserved to honor all of our Veterans past and present, and much more important than the trite phrase, Have A Good Day, when most who say this could care less and have been instructed to say it.

Wanda November 10, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I pretty much beat the crap out of anyone who talks to me, so…

Giovanni November 10, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Pagan Yuletide too!

Chrissy November 10, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Don’t forget Newtonmas!

michael November 10, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Christmas happens every year in this country. I do not care what you believe in. Christmas will be here and I hope you enjoy it. You do not have to be Christian to enjoy a paid day off.

Jill November 11, 2015 at 2:34 am

The question of retailers and when and why they switched to Happy Holidays…answer…25 years ago I was working retail. It started with the companies that were owned by Jewish owned companies. Gee I wonder why they wanted to be more inclusive? Hmmm Gradually over the years all the retail establishments followed suit. NOT to condemn Christmas but to include Jewish, kwanza, pagan et et. We were allowed to wish someone Merry Christmas only if they said it first. I do not know if that has changed in the 20 years but YES they did say we were not to wish people merry Christmas but to say happy holidays. But it was NOT to placate Muslims or other immigrants but as a recognition to the FACT that our country IS a melting pot of various beliefs and nationalities. No one made a huge fuss or protested the use of merry Christmas and it was not started as a war on religion.

Bob November 12, 2015 at 8:51 am

If your offended by a holiday greeting of any kind, just hold your breath and count to ten. If you’re still offended, hold your breath and count to ten thousand.

JR November 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

What about Festivus? Its not on the chart!!!

Gary November 23, 2015 at 11:54 am

Basically I wait to find what people are pissed off by during the Holidays, and then I repeat it ad nauseum, you know, in the spirit of giving.

D J November 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm


Joey deVilla November 23, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Thanks! You too!

Patrick Burke November 24, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Political correctness of any stripe is not only sickening but condescending. I’ll extend and accept what ever wish I find appropriate or none at all and care not what others may think. If any one is offended by Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ then by all means don’t celebrate it.

Claire F November 27, 2016 at 11:35 am

I’ve never gotten the “Merry” part of Merry Christmas because that has to do with Santa and not Christ. Blessed Christmas would seem to be the appropriate Christian greeting.

“Merry” seems to go with “Drink Coke” Santa and “Spend a lot of money buying food and stuff”

Andrew Peter Laskaris November 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm

When in Rome !
When in Israel !
Be kind and good in your greetings !
If $omeone gets offended ,
Be kind and good in your response .

Heather Cooke November 29, 2016 at 10:48 am

Andrew Peter Laskaris, yours is the absolutely perfect response and what I think Christmas is truly about. I plan on repeating it as often as needed. Thank you

Carol Ann Moorhead November 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm

But we’re not in Rome or Israel, we’re in a melting pot of religions! Taking offense to any particular holiday greeting is not a good use of one’s energy, I agree, but outside of a Christmas or Hannukah party (any specific celebration), I believe that “Happy Holidays” is the most considerate and respectful greeting in our country. If people find that too PC it could be because they’ve never genuinely put themselves in the others’ shoes, never imagined what it would be like to hear over and over again a greeting for a holiday that is not at all theirs. I celebrate Christmas. I think I would get tired of hearing “Happy Solstice” or “Happy Hannukah” day after day after day, year after year, but “Happy Holidays” is different. “Happy Holidays” says “I wish you well no matter what you do (or don’t) celebrate.” It seems caring and loving, truly in the spirit of all traditions and religious observances!

Burley Williams December 2, 2016 at 5:40 am

Remember January 28th so that you can wish Happy New Year to Chinese friends and restaurant workers. It will make their day.

CindyLouWhom December 23, 2016 at 5:35 pm

I really wish the author of this chart hadn’t gone the extra mile to say “then there’s something broken with you”. That was a bridge too far.

Yes, you shouldn’t fly into apoplectic rage if you’re non Xtian and someone wishes you a “Merry Xmas”

But — it’s a whiff of Xtian Privilege (oy did I just type that?) to expect non-Xtians to do the work of “oh just understand what I mean not what I say”. Well, all I know is what you _said_ and you _said_ was wishing me a holiday greeting on the _assumption_ that I am of a certain faith (or any faith at all). Either Xmas is a Xtian holiday, or it isn’t (it is). You cannot have it both ways.

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