The ruckus around whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays” usually starts at the end of Thanksgiving, as retailers take down the turkeys with pilgrim hats and hang wreaths instead. Most of the time, it’s confined to the letters section of the local newspaper.
But Christmas came early this year. President-elect Donald Trump made his position clear in June, and many times since: “Boy, do I mean it—we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” he told a group of evangelical leaders in New York. (He made a similar promise last year, when he also suggested boycotting Starbucks after the coffee chain abandoned its traditional holiday cup design.)
Conservatives agree. A poll conducted earlier this month by the Public Religion Research Institute found 67 percent of Republicans don’t think it’s necessary for businesses to ditch a Christmas greeting for “happy holidays”; only 30 percent of Democrats feel the same. Party preference was the sharpest dividing line on this question, but young people are also far more likely to prefer a non-denominational salutation (67 percent), as are black Americans (69 percent).
Is this new? Not especially. PRRI asked the same question three years ago; Republicans largely felt the same way, though slightly less strongly (only 61 percent of Republicans reacted negatively back then). But “happy holidays” is a particularly Trumpian pain point—non-traditional, multi-cultural, and driven by a sensitivity to others who, you know, don’t actually celebrate Christmas.