Why are greetings offensive today?
Re: “What saying ‘Happy Holidays’ says about us” op-ed, Dec. 15).
My University of Connecticut colleague, Professor Kevin McEvoy raises an interesting marketing question, but as a historian I beg to differ with his timeline.
Secular holiday greetings have been an American tradition since at least the mid-19th century. “Happy holidays” has been in use in the United States since the 1860s. Hallmark issued Season’s Greetings cards along with Merry Christmas cards when it debuted its line of holiday cards in 1915. President Dwight Eisenhower sent “Season’s Greetings” from the White House in a generous spirit of inclusion, not out of “fear.” So did Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan.
Non-denominational greetings are not something new. What is new is the enormous sense of grievance ginned up by the so-called “War on Christmas” that historians trace to the sudden and unprecedented outcry against George W. Bush’s 2005 holiday card for not using the word Christmas. Since then a growing army of outrage perceives the simple greeting “happy holidays” as an attack.
The real question is: Why did “happy holidays” and “seasons greetings” become so offensive in just the last dozen years?
Mary Cygan is an associate professor of history at University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus.