Counselor's Corner: Happy holidays or Merry Christmas? It's the spirit behind the words that counts

By Fred Cavaiani Is it Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Each year we wish people Happy Holidays or we wish people Merry Christmas. What is the social sensitive greeting to give to someone? Which statement is more accurate? Because we live in a multi-cultured society and a multi-diverse religious society there is a movement not to be offensive to any culture and any religion that is not Christian. Non-Christians may not necessarily like the religious celebration of Christmas. We can make sound logical arguments to say as Tiny Tim said: "Merry Christmas to all" and we can make sound logical arguments to say" Happy Holidays to all." It just depends upon the viewpoint we have and the intensity of feelings we are experiencing. What we say to people in verbalizing a greeting at this wonderful time of the year is not what is important. How we genuinely treat people and the internal wishes I give to everyone is really what is important. This week before Christmas the bells seems to be ringing more intensely. The carols of Christmas, the songs about Santa Claus, and the theme of "I will be home for Christmas" all become stronger and resonate so deeply in our hearts. The anticipation of Christmas Eve, Christmas morn and Christmas Day is heard in songs 24/7. It almost becomes numbing in this final week. Yet it is simply a reminder to celebrate Love once more. We have just a little while before we have our family gatherings and watch the children smile with glee when they open their gifts. We also watch the child in ourselves and the adults around us open gifts with a smile and a grateful "oh" as each person opens their gifts. The final countdown is here. How will this next week be spent? Hopefully we will live this next week with a sense of gratitude and love toward everyone. This is the meaning of Christmas. It should also be the meaning of any Holy Day or holiday. If someone gets upset with me for saying "Merry Christmas" instead of" Happy Holidays" or saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," it is really quite unimportant. What is important is the love I express to you regardless of how you treat me or how we may have different opinions. The meaning of Christmas is "peace on earth and good will toward all." This means good will toward all not just toward people who believe the same as I do or think the way I do or who believe the way I do. Good will and love toward everyone is the real meaning of Christmas. This good will and love first needs to be expressed towards those closest to me which is usually family. It also needs to be expressed to everyone else. If I exclude anyone then Christmas doesn't work. On Saturday evening my wife and I drove through neighborhoods admiring the homes decorated in Christmas lights. It was like a continual glow of warmth and light. And these lights were for everyone to see and behold. We both felt like a gift was being given to us. Maybe this is the message of Christmas-to bring warmth and light to everyone. This next week is really a week of inclusivity. It is a week where I make a special effort to include everyone in my greetings and good wishes. It is a week of wishing and sending love to everyone. No one is to be excluded. Christmas is the season to bring Love to everyone. No one has to be a Christian to receive my Love. No one has to believe in God to receive my Love. Santa Claus comes to everyone. So does God. So will I in my heart and mind. Then I can honestly celebrate Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Holidays everyone. Let your light shine! Fred Cavaiani is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is Published: Thu, Dec 22, 2011