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It's 28th of December.

Between the two holidays, Should you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year" to your friends?

I am so confused of what time of day it is right now and so the festivals.

  • 1
    You can say both - "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" - it's a stock phrase, forgivable in all circumstances; unless you're AmE in which case you avoid offending anyone by just saying "Happy Holidays" [which makes me want to vomit, like if anyone ever tells me to "Have a Nice Day!"] – Tetsujin Dec 27 '14 at 20:29
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    Christmas is on the 25th, New Years Eve is the 31st. Christmas is over now, so Happy New Years would probably be more appropriate, but nobody is going to care if you wish them a Merry Christmas at this point. I hang around some flamingly liberal folks, and very, very few of them actually get offended if someone wishes them happiness in a holiday they don't celebrate. There are far more people with a chip on their shoulder the other way, who are offended if you don't wish them happiness for Christmas specifically. Case in point, @Tetsujin. – Jason Patterson Dec 27 '14 at 20:54
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    I avoid any problem by simply saying, 'all the best.' Sometimes I enjoy confusing folk by wishing them a 'Blessed Yuletide'. ¦Þ – Joe Dark Dec 27 '14 at 22:19
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    @Jason - I get the feeling that the "objection" here is not with the phrase "Happy Holidays" per se, but with the sentiment that "I really need to say ‘Happy Holidays’ because I'm afraid that ‘Merry Christmas’ might be interpreted as offensive." To the O.P.: so long as your greeting is made cheerfully, you should be able to use either "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year" when you're in-between the two holidays. "Merry Christmas" can be regarded as a sentiment for a joyous Christmas day, or a joyous Christmas season, and the latter doesn't end on Dec. 26th. – J.R. Dec 27 '14 at 23:29
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    I usually say Happy Holidays and switch to Happy New Year after New Year's Eve... when it is the new year. – Catija Feb 18 '15 at 23:33
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On the 28th, Christmas has passed, so say "I hope you've had a great Christmas."

It's conventional to reference the next upcoming holiday in goodbyes if the holiday is near, so saying "Happy New Year's" would be best since that's the next coming up holiday on the 28th. Expressing hope that they had a good holiday is polite and can be part of a polite goodbye:

I hope you had a great Christmas and that you have a great New Years too. Take care!

If you are around someone you don't know and don't know if they celebrate Christmas, you can, as a sign of respect, change references of Christmas to "holiday."

New Years is a well known holiday and doesn't have to be connected with any religion or political ideology, it's just ushering in a new year on the calendar. So it's safe to wish people a happy New Year.

I hope you've had a great holiday and that you have a great New Years too. Take care!

8

Here's the original, emphasis added...

It's 28th of December. Should you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year" to your friends? I am so confused of what time of day it is right now and so the festivals.

"The Controversy"

To answer this, we first need to acknowledge "the controversy" so we can side-step it. The controversy over what one "should" say is well documented in many other places on the web, including Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_controversy. Depending on who you say it to, they may be pleased, neutral, or offended. There is no definitive, authoritative, StackExchange type English answer to what one "should" or "shouldn't" say in this regard.

Answer to the question: What should I say on December 28th?

The main question is what one should say on December 28th as a holiday greeting between Christmas and New Years Day. This too has no definitive, authoritative Stack Exchange type answer. People can provide their own thoughts and ideas about common practice they have observed, but that is neither definitive nor authoritative.

Are there any guidelines on Usage?

There are standard guides on English, including the use of holiday expressions, but any such standard has some cultural, political, business or other subjective basis, and has some relative objective. Some standards are based on maximizing the probability of appeasing the majority of a certain population such as a company's customers. Others are concerned with minimizing objections among minority religious and secular groups. Some standards are designed to avoid legal issues. But there is no single, authoritative standard for what one "should" say within free-speech English.1

So what can we say about the phrase?

  • We can indicate whether something is correct or incorrect English. All such combinations or permutations given in OP's post (and other posts/comments) are valid in terms of English language. One may say "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy New Year!" or "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" and each would be a grammatically correct utterance in the English language within AmE/BrE. All are correct. None is incorrect. In fact, you can say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year" at any point during the entire year, and still be grammatically correct!

  • Why is it correct? Grammatically, "Merry Christmas!" is traditionally considered to be the short form of "I wish you have a merry Christmas!" or "I wish for you a merry Christmas!" which is a wish, which is an imperative sentence. The short form, which is also similar to a exclamatory phrase, is accepted/correct in spoken language, informal writing, and titles such as found on banners and holiday cards. Any wish with correct form is grammatically correct (including the contorted, "Happy Christmas and Merry New Years!") Linguistic correctness is relative to common usage, and on this basis "Merry Christmas!" is correct in the informal register. (However, "Happy Christmas" would generally be noticed as different, odd, a playful change-from-normal, or an error.)

  • The traditional categorization of holiday greetings (wishes) as imperative sentences has been debated in modern treatments. The new focus has considered an additional dimension of function instead of just form. "Merry Christmas" and the like could be considered a speech act that serves a social function. To learn more about different philosophies of the grammar/function/meaning of holiday greetings and other language constructs, see phatic expressions, pragmatics, and philosophy of language.

Summary

There is no definitive rule or guideline regarding what to say in the interim between Dec 25th and Jan 1st. All options indicated are valid English statements. Other valid suggestions are posed in various answers and comments. The choice is yours, and will likely be based on your own beliefs, your assessment of the cultural group you are talking to, and your desired objective.


1. In a more general sense, there are some definitive and authoritative laws regarding what one should or shouldn't say in certain circumstances. For example, in "free speech" countries, it's typically illegal to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no such fire. Such a statement, while grammatically fine English, would likely land a person in jail and should not be uttered. Contractual agreements often create an obligation that mandates some form of speech or restraint thereof. For example, one is often contractually obligated to refrain from saying something negative about the company they work for and refrain from divulging company secrets. Also, there are certain laws that may compel one to state facts or professional opinions in a court of law. Similarly, in some non-XYZ or anti-XYZ (XYZ={Christian, Religious}) countries, saying "Merry Christmas" may be against the law and incur severe penalties.

2

Christmas is a big holiday in the U.S., many people are preparing for it weeks in advance -- buying presents and planning parties and so forth -- and are still celebrating it days after. So wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" on December 28 wouldn't seem particularly odd. However, while I haven't collected statistics on this, I think more than two or three days after Christmas most Americans fall back to a generic greeting, "Have a nice day" or "How are you?" or whatever. Most only use "Happy New Year" on December 31 and January 1.

I'm speaking of in-person greetings. It is common to send cards saying "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" any time after Thanksgiving to just before Christmas. People very rarely send such cards after Christmas, and if you do, the receiver generally assumes that it is because you forgot to send it earlier.

Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, so if you have Eastern Orthodox friends shift everything about two weeks.

RE "Happy Holidays": This is most definitely NOT an easy "neutral" greeting that avoids offending anyone. Yes, some non-Christians are offended by any mention of the word "Christmas". But lots of Christians are offended by this deliberate refusal to even say the name of their holiday. If you don't see that, let me put it this way: Suppose someone showed you a picture of a busy sidewalk, and all the people visible in the picture were white. You might assume that at the time the person clicked the picture there just didn't happen to be any non-whites present. But then suppose the photographer told you that in the original picture there were several black people, and he used Photoshop to edit them all out because he doesn't want to offend anyone who hates black people. Would you say, "Oh, good idea. That's a good neutral position that avoids offending either blacks or whites." Or would you say, "If someone is offended by just seeing a black person in a picture, we should be denouncing that person as a racist, not catering to him!" The latter is how I react when people say that they use "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" to avoid offending anti-Christians. I would feel the same way if someone told me that he refuses to name Hanukkah or Ramadan or Diwali.

If your goal is to pointedly offend Christians, then yes, say "Happy Holidays". "Merry Christmas" is probably the "safer" greeting as even most non-Christians are not offended at a reminder that a religion that they don't believe in exists. Many non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas, presumably without referring to Jesus Christ but just giving gifts and having parties. But yes, a tiny number of anti-Christians, as opposed to simply non-Christians, are offended by the mention of Christmas. If you don't want to offend either group, then stick to a greeting that makes no mention of any holidays, like "Hello" or "Have a nice day". I've never heard of someone being offended by those.

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