Every year we debate the secularization of Christmas with more fervor than the year before. Santa Claus is a shill for the monied capitalists trying to make more money. We say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas and so forth.
But here’s a suggestion or two for dealing with the situation: Remind people that when they say Santa Claus they are saying Saint Nicholas, as the name became transliterated across time and national boundaries. Santa is saint as in Sanctus, and Claus is Nicholas having translated through the Dutch from Sinterklass. You can read for yourself the history of St Nicholas in many places. He lived in Asia Minor during the latter stages of the Roman Empire. So, remind your friends that Santa Claus derives from a Roman Catholic bishop and is therefore a religious figure. Even his costume comes from a description of Saint Nicholas.
Now let’s get to that pesky, Happy Holidays. First, keep in mind that Hanukah falls within Advent, which is the Christian season approaching Christmas so it is also a series of holy days for practicing Jews. There is also the recently created Kwanza that shares the days of Christmas, so it is not impolite or a slighting of Christmas to wish people Happy Holidays just as long as you spell and pronounce it correctly. It isn’t Happy Holl li days, it’s Happy Holy days. The Holiday pronunciation comes from the British tradition of Bank Holidays when the banks would close, generally in observance of some secular event.
So, Santa Claus is a religious figure and Happy Holy Days does just fine as a greeting. They also make for good “did you know” water cooler or Holy Day party conversation starters. Pass it on, encourage your friends and hearten them by pointing out that the very people who want to secularize Christmas are using religious terms to do so. They who laugh last, laugh best. Ho! Ho! Ho!