• 66°

A happy Christmas to all

As Southerners, we pride ourselves on good manners, generosity and insisting on “merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays.”

Or so we thought.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, the South prefers that retailers greet their customers with “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” instead of “merry Christmas.”

To be clear, evangelicals strongly favor “merry Christmas” and those who profess no faith strongly prefer “happy holidays.”

The West and Midwest both prefer “merry Christmas,” while the South is joined by the Northeast in preferring “happy holidays.”

What? We’ve been lumped in with the Northeast on something relating to religion? That’s absurd. How can that be?

It turns out many who are religious in the South don’t seem to mind “happy holidays.”

To some, it’s an unimportant factor in how they view Christmas. Whether a store clerk says “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas” has no bearing on how they view the holiday. And that’s probably a reasonable approach.

But who would have thought that approach would be found in the South.

“There is no orchestrated war against saying ‘merry Christmas,’ but it is important to recognize that Christmas can be a potent symbol that reflects intergroup tensions and signals exclusion to some Americans,” according to the data website fivethirtyeight.com, which analyzed the data.

Maybe we can all agree to wish each other a “happy Christmas” this year. Or better yet, we can focus on the meaning of Christmas — the birth of Christ — and quit worrying about silly greetings.