Last year I had an a-ha moment, one of those when someone puts something into words and I realized it was something I’d always known. I’ve minded Christmas greetings much less in the last 20 year since I’ve been celebrating it – as I told Ted last night, it’s my holiday-in-law. Still, maybe that means I can speak on behalf of others….

Chanukah is based on a lunar calendar but it always falls before Christmas. (At most, its later days intersect Christmas.) Solstice is December 2 or 22. Even Festivus falls December 23, not that I’ve ever heard of anyone taking it seriously. Divali is in early fall. Muslim holidays are based on a lunar calendar that progresses through the solar year , so there is no specific December festival. It’s true that Kwanzaa is December 26 to January 1, but I suspect most people that celebrate it are either Christian or Muslim and take their primary holidays from those calendars. Orthodox Christmas is on January 7, but it really is Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, not a different holiday.

Therefore, when you go around on December 24 wishing everyone “happy holidays”, we all know what you mean: Merry Christmas. Or maybe “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”. If you’re trying to sound ecumenical and sensitive, it isn’t working.

Better ways to be inclusive are to wish “happy holidays” before most of the holidays are over; to wish “merry Christmas to those who celebrate it”, which may leave the rest out but is at least honest and doesn’t assume that everyone does; “have a great holiday break!” to those who get vacation time for it (I certainly enjoyed having CHristmas break from school no matter whose holiday it was for); or “Happy New Year” since as far as I can tell, everyone celebrates January 1, even people who also celebrate New Year’s on Chinese New Year a month or so later or who celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

I appreciate the intentions of inclusiveness, but I appreciate them a lot more when they’re not in name only.