“War on Christmas?” Are retailers “naughty” or “nice”?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series "War on Christmas"
American Family Association Naughty or Nice list


Do you prefer “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? Choosing the appropriate seasonal greeting is an annual conundrum for most people. And, it’s a conundrum for businesses, too. Does the traditional greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ alienate or attract customers? What about the politically correct ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings’?

It’s safe to say that most large retailers will try to do whatever maximizes sales. And this year, a lot of retailers are “for Christmas,” according to the America Family Association (AFA). Each year, the AFA compiles a “naughty or nice” list of retailers, encouraging shoppers to boycott “naughty” companies.

The “nice” list includes 52 companies, such as Amazon, Bass Pro Shops, Kmart, Zappos, Nordstrom, and Sears. Among these 35, there are five super nice companies that actively promote and celebrate Christmas: Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, Belk, Lowe’s, and AFA Online Store.

The “naughty” list is much shorter, including a dozen companies. Examples are Barnes & Noble, The Limited, Pet Smart, Supervalu, and Victoria’s Secret. This year, the AFA is calling for a boycott of Pet Smart and invites you to sign a pledge.

Some companies are neither naughty nor nice. They “marginalize” Christmas, according to the AFA, by infrequently referring to Christmas. Fourteen companies are in this limbo state, including Best Buy, Safeway, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. (You can see the complete lists here.)

Which greeting do you prefer—Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?
Do you patronage retailers that are “for Christmas?”
Does a retailer’s stance on the holiday matter to you?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends on Facebook. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Series Navigation<< “War on Christmas?” Are you a SPUG?“War on Christmas?” Is it the war that never was? >>


  1. Todd says

    From a cultural standpoint, Christmas still dominates the season, particularly when it comes to retail business as Dr. Baker notes 9 in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas. That’s a lot of Christmas presents and huge business. Therefore it makes business sense to wish customers a “Merry Christmas.”

    Yes, “Happy Holidays” is more inclusive from, and it’s understandable for businesses to choose to be more inclusive in their marketing. “Season’s Greetings” is almost too politically correct because it is less definitive and descriptive, and almost suggests little of substance or meaning.

    It is a bigger conundrum on a personal level, and where any collateral damage from the war on Christmas may be identified. It’s remarkable that people are now hesitant to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” to someone for fear of offending them.

    You can certainly argue that it is quite ridiculous. People are hesitant to share a greeting of cheer for the off-chance someone would be offended that you wished them to be “happy” or “merry”.

    I celebrate Christmas. I prefer “Merry Christmas”, yet I’ve found myself defaulting, sub-consciously or instinctively, this year to “Happy Holidays”. It’s anecdotal, but does it suggest that it’s becoming more of the cultural standard. If so, is it a sign that we’re becoming more inclusive as a society or does it reflect the persistent efforts of a few to effect societal norms where people are not comfortable fully expressing their faith in a greeting of joy in fear of a negative response. And for many, it’s not even an expression of true faith, it’s a greeting reflective of a cultural holiday with a mixture of pagan, Christian, and commercial origins.

    So yes, it’s a conundrum. The personal and broader societal impact interests and matters more to me personally. Whether a business uses either doesn’t matter a whole lot to me.

  2. Darren says

    Similar to Todd, this is the first year I have found myself wishing others to have a “Happy Holidays” or a “Great Holiday Season” as I wrap up pre-holiday communications, both personal and professional. It seems strange to me as I’ve always been a Merry Christmas kind of guy. I don’t want to think of this as an anti Christmas statement, rather an inclusive one, wrapping in the New Year holiday as well. I guess we justify whatever we need to. If I were honest with myself, it is more likely that I don’t want to offend people I don’t know well. Perhaps that is within the holiday spirit as well.