Each year, fewer individuals and institutions say "Merry Christmas" as consciousness rises of the offense this causes members of the ACLU. The trend also pleases executives of large corporations, who have long resented any interference from religion during their primary winter sales period. Yet perhaps due to continuing ignorance and prejudice, people will soon unthinkingly wish others "Happy New Year" without realizing the trauma this may cause members of America’s calendar minorities.
The hegemonic calendar of the Western world has long been the Gregorian, fixed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It contains the familiar 12 months of January, February, and so one. This calendar was imposed on the Western world by the Catholic Church with cooperation from temporal rulers. The Gregorian calendar has many advantages over the alternatives, such as actually being accurate to the Earth’s movement around the sun. However, it privileges Western traditions and modes of thought, and is particularly favorable to Christian holidays.
Jewish Americans, Chinese-Americans, Muslim Americans and others have their own calendars. The Jewish new year began on Rosh Hashanah in the Fall, so wishing an American of Jewish affiliation "Happy New Year" around January 1 may be perceived as an attempt to forcibly convert him/her to Catholicism. The Chinese Year of the Dog will begin on Jan. 29, 2006, so wishing a person of Chinese descent "Happy New Year" at this time may be seen as a denigration of China’s 5,000 years of highly developed civilization. The Muslim new year varies but is also not at this time, so if the words "Happy New Year" pass your lips in the presence of a Muslim, s/he may slit your throat on international satellite television.
Other differently-calendared Americans may also be offended by the often-well-intentioned wish of "Happy New Year." If a person’s calendar orientation is unknown to you, the safest and most sensitive course is to stick to "Have a nice day." Please keep these considerations in mind during this season, which every year so touchingly brings out the generosity of spirit for which politically correct people everywhere are so renowned.