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Happy Holidays!

What do you wish people?

In the old days, it was not called the ‘Holiday Season’; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’.{a}

Recently people on St Helena have started wishing each other ’Happy Holidays!’…

Happy Holidays!

Christmas or The Holidays

In the USA you wish people ’Happy Holidays!’, and for very good reason. America has a substantial Christian population, who celebrate Christmas on 25th December, a large Jewish population who celebrate Hanukkah for eight days and nights sometime from the end of November to the end of December, and others who celebrate Kwanzaa from 26th December to 1st January. If addressing a group, or an individual you don’t know, you cannot possibly know which they will celebrate. Hence ‘Happy Holidays’ encompasses them all.

But what about St Helena?

As mentioned on our page Religion, around 80% of the population of St Helena defines itself as Christian{b}, in one form or another, and so the majority celebrates Christmas. Followers of Judaism did not feature as an identifiable group on the 2021 Census, so it seems few if any celebrate Hanukkah. Although Kwanzaa began in the USA as a celebration of African-American culture, it is now celebrated worldwide and hence might be considered applicable here, but we can find no evidence of it ever actually having been celebrated here{1}. So it seems strange that recently people on St Helena have started wishing others ’Happy Holidays!’ instead of the more conventional ‘Happy Christmas’.

For example, in 2022 the Chief Minister’s Christmas Message, published in our newspapers contained the paragraph (our emphasis): Remember - the holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us, though it did end Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy and Healthy 2023!. The same year the St Helena Golf Club wished everyone Happy swinging and happy holidays from all of us at St Helena Golf Club.. See below the Bank of St Helena 2022 Christmas Greeting, sent to all customers.

Why might this be? We can speculate on some possible explanations:

it’s not ‘The Christmas Season’, it’s the solstice season. And that’s why it’s not a war on Christmas. It’s a war on the solstice, and the Christians started it.{c}

Winter/Summer Holidays

Americans with a more global perspective sometimes refer to the season as ‘The Winter Holidays’ and people in the Southern hemisphere therefore refer to it as ‘The Summer Holidays’, which could be confusing to residents of Europe (especially Britain) where ‘The Summer Holidays’ refers to the period from mid-July to the end of August when everybody takes time off work and goes to the beach… There is no confusion in America where the annual summer flight to the beach is referred to as the ‘vacation’. Add to this the tendency of Southern hemisphere nations to celebrate ‘Christmas in July’ (a mid-winter celebration similar to Northern hemisphere Christmas but apparently with no religious connection) and the whole thing becomes irresolvably complex.

Other seasonal celebrations

The family of the editor of this website are predominantly Atheist with no practicing Christians. At this time of year we celebrate ‘Newtonmas’ - the birth of Isaac Newton, which did actually occur on 25th December (1643). But we all respond likewise to ‘Happy Christmas’…


{a} Dave Barry, in ‘Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide’{b} 2021 Census, taken 7th February 2021.{c} David Silverman


{1} If you know otherwise please contact us with details.{2} Yes, we did really say that…