At this time of year I proudly wear a button that says
There is no War on Christmas
but Peace on Earth and Good Will are taking quite a beating!
I began wishing people Happy Holidays out of respect, first of all: I am very well aware that I live in a society in which Christianity is normative and non-Christian minorities are often invisible. I have no desire to reinforce that invisibility by presuming that everyone around me celebrates Christmas.
But a funny thing happened. I discovered that, if I said Happy Holidays to people whose religious affiliation I didn’t know, and to people who I knew celebrated a “cultural Christmas” with no religious observances, and as my default greeting when the context was the generic winter holiday festival bash that our society celebrates… it started to mean a lot more when I did say Merry Christmas, because I was only saying it to people that I knew actually celebrated the birth of Christ. And when we said Merry Christmas to each other, we had that common set of associations, and they reinforced each other.
And so Merry Christmas actually started to carry that specifically religious meaning for me again, because I was restricting it to those contexts.
I do make one exception to my use of Happy Holidays as my default holiday greeting, however: on Christmas Day itself, I will wish people Merry Christmas, because I myself am in the midst of my Christmas celebration. So I find it useful that Dr. James McGrath’s amusing Articles of Christmas applies strictly to that twenty-four hour period.