In past years there have been debates between people saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  The United States has people from various ethnic backgrounds and religions living in our Country.  Additionally, there are also many people who have no religious beliefs.  Our Country is suppose to be the “great melting pot.” Therefore, we are suppose to all live together peacefully and respectfully together.

Unfortunately, it does not appear we are living up to the goal of being the “great melting pot.”  We have people who are singling out certain nationalities and trying to prevent them from immigrating to the United States.  We have also seen a 57% increase in crimes against people of Jewish decent.  For example, the largest amount of Jewish people in the United States killed at one time were killed while worshiping in their Temple.  This type of violence has not occurred for decades, but it is back.  Freedom of religion is one of the core beliefs of the United States.  However, it does appear that core belief is eroding and possibly disappearing.

In addition to increase discrimination towards ethnicities and religions, there is an increase in the discrimination towards people who are homosexual or identify as anything other than heterosexual.  The United States Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the beliefs that our Country is based on and what our Country represents.  It states “all men” not just Caucasian people, not just Christian people and not just people who are heterosexual.  However, crimes against the LGBT+ community have increased significantly over the past couple of years (CDC).

The Declaration of Independence and Constitution assume that we may have differences in our cultures or religious beliefs, but that we can all live together peacefully and respect one another.  Unfortunately, when we see a 57% rise in hate crimes towards people who are Jewish, and an increase in crimes against Asian Americans, and the LGBTQ+ community, we are not living together peacefully or respectfully.

This brings me to the debate between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  I am a proud Italian, Catholic, American, however, my family taught me to respect people regardless of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.  Therefore, I always wish people Happy Holidays.  In the United States during this time of year we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa (I am sure there are some religious celebrations I missed) and New Years.  If I am going to be respectful, Happy Holidays is the most appropriate saying not Merry Christmas.  Some one may not be Christian and they may have no religious beliefs at all.  However, most likely they celebrate Thanksgiving and New Years.  Happy Holidays covers this without imposing my beliefs on someone else.  Everyone who is Christian think about this point, what if you were not allowed to say Merry Christmas or if the entire Country acted like Christmas did not exist?  How would that make you feel?  You probably would not like it.

Therefore, I think we need to return to our roots: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a very powerful statement and in order to honor it we must respect all cultures, religions and sexual orientations.  This statement is what makes the United States so different from every other country in the world.  If we are going to honor our Country then Happy Holidays is the appropriate greeting during this time of year not Merry Christmas.  If you are Christian it is appropriate to say in your home and at your Church not at work or out in public.

We also need to look at the amount of violence that is occurring in our Country.  Besides fire drills at schools, now children are having to do mass shooting drills.  Schools are actually practicing and teaching first and second graders what they need to do if there is a mass shooting at their school.  Many children are frightened by these drills.  They do not know if they are practice or real and they are afraid that they will be killed at school.  There are a number of reasons why we have these mass killings, but the lack of respect we show to each other cannot be helping the situation.  Therefore, out of respect for everyone when you are in public try using Happy Holidays.  When you are at home or among family and friends use the greeting that works for your family.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders.  For more information about his work or private practice visit his website or his Facebook page