A client requested editing for the marketing text that her company normally uses for its Christmas greeting card. Because English is not the company’s first language, she was worried that the text sounded awkward (it did) and that more could be said with fewer words (it could).

But is Merry Christmas even the right direction?

America the Beautiful, Land of Immigrants

Debates over the current immigration policies of the U.S. aside, there is no argument that the country has an impressively diverse population, especially when it comes to religious belief.

According to PewResearch’s Religion and Public Life Project, the U.S. is predominantly Christian by some 78.4 percent. That does not, however, equal a single religious belief, as Christians include Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodoxy – some of whom do not celebrate Christmas as many of us know it.

There’s just as much diversity among the 22.6 percent: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a range of others, including those who define themselves as unaffiliated.

A War on Christmas?

The rise of the term “Happy Holidays” is a wonderful acknowledgement of the diversity outlined above. Those who are using the term – along with a similarly neutral term, “Season’s Greetings” – are not political people with an agenda, those who are trying to define November and December as decidedly not the ownership of just the Christians. Instead they are the blessedly practical, people who accept that when you have 1 in 4 chances of a misstep with “Merry Christmas” it may be a wiser choice to choose a term that embraces them all.

Is that the end of the story? Not exactly.

How to Be A Wise (Wo)Man

So should you use “Merry Christmas” on your greeting card? Well, it depends! If you are a company that specializes in producing Christmas-themed products for the American marketplace, you are as interested in consistent messaging as the company that produces Hanukkah-related goods.

That is to say, the answer is in what you sell and who you are trying to reach.

If you want to send mass-produced cards to American customers or business partners located from Washington State to Texas to Massachusetts and to Alabama, I recommend that you go with the neutral greetings and images. Cards that feature explicitly Christian symbols (a cross or a manager, for example) should be passed over instead for cards that feature more generic or “gift-giving season” symbols.

Images that feature:

  • Snow, snowflakes, and/or a snowman
  • Food and drink festivities
  • Poinsettia and ivy
  • Wrapped gifts
  • Red and gold colors

Just look at the kind of images you can find for “Happy Holidays” using Google image search:
happy holidays  images

The same rules should apply to all of your related content marketing. Do you produce a seasonal catalog? Make it a “Holiday Gift Guide,” for example.

If, however, you are writing a more personal messages to, say, an American client with whom you have talked about Sunday church activities, God’s blessings, and the like, go ahead and enthusiastically send a Merry Christmas greeting!

Here are examples of the Christian-themed “Merry Christmas” cards, also found using Google image search.
merry christmas christian images

In short, here’s your lesson:

Unless you believe with certainty that your American card recipient is a Christian, choosing a more generic greeting such as “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is your best bet.

Enjoy December!