You read that right: not a lick of "jolly" anywhere in the sentence. Every year, I'm surprised that people put their "peace on earth, goodwill to men" on the back burner to complain that people aren't saluting a holiday the way they "should."
There is no "war" on any holiday. There's just a difference of opinion, and the last time I checked, that was not only legal, but certainly possible in this mixed salad of a world in which we live. And in this season of goodwill, perhaps allowing people to "live and let live" would serve as a good example of the courtesy we ourselves wish to be extended to us.
For those who want to "keep the 'Christ' in Christmas," knock yourselves out. I'm thrilled, and I support you. Go to church and ramp up your Nativity to include an extra ass (so the kids can giggle when they say it). Wish everyone a "Merry Christmas." Sing the Christmas carols that are ripe with meaning for you. Make it as spiritual an experience as you wish.
For those who want it secular, I'm thrilled, and I support you. Whip out the candy canes and Santa Claus costume, deck the halls with boughs of holly, hang the stocking by the chimney with care. Wish everyone a "Happy Holiday" or "Merry Christmas," depending on your mood, or audience, or time of day. Sing the Christmas carols that are ripe with meaning for you.
For those who don't like to celebrate the season, don't. I'm thrilled, and I support you. No stockings, no tree, no Nativity scene, no Midnight Mass, no candy cane-shaped cookies. Do not wish anyone a happy anything any more than you would any other time of the year. Skip singing the Christmas carols, but if you have the ability to hear, don't expect to avoid them any time after Halloween.
Now, here is a great suggestion to keep the tension down during the holidays: just let it go. Put your energy into your own celebration. Christmas is as much a cultural touchstone as it is a holiday for the population at large.
When someone wishes you a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holiday," you have a few choices:
a) respond in kind;
b) respond with your preferred phrase (if different from the original greeting);
c) say, "Thank you."
Note: "bite off the other person's head" or "snap back peevishly with the phrase you prefer" are not listed because in that way lies rudeness, and that is certainly not in tune with the season.
That exchange is a form of polite chit-chat, not a declaration of faith (or lack thereof). It's like the old joke, "When asked how you are, don't talk about your indigestion — 'How are you' is a statement, not a question." Neither is a holiday exchange.
There's no either-wing conspiracy to cheat you out of your preferences, nor does anyone wish to be divisive. It's like eggnog: whether you drink it with brandy, ice cubes or skip it entirely, make your choice and let your fellow nogger make her or his choice in kind. 'Tis the season.