In some countries, some people avoid using "Merry Christmas" and instead say Happy Holidays:

Thought by some to be a politically correct alternative to Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year when greeting people in public places due to concern over those who might not celebrate Christmas.

(I'm not sure who'd be offended by Happy New Year - people who don't use a Gregorian calendar?)

Is it safe to use メリークリスマス? If not, are there "politically correct" alternatives?

Searching jisho.org for season's did get some results literally translating as season's greetings, but I expect phrases written in kanji aren't likely to be politically correct euphemisms for "Merry Christmas".

  • Is it safe to use メリークリスマス?>>> 大丈夫~~ I say メリークリスマス even to お坊さん/お寺の息子さん^^ They never get offended. Some guys I know at college, whose fathers are お坊さん and families live in お寺, told me they eat クリスマスケーキ on Dec 24/25, and サンタ gave them presents when they were little.^^ (I asked them if they celebrate Christmas at home(=お寺), just because I was curious! We actually laughed when we heard that...) Well, of course some お寺の息子's said they'd never had クリスマスケーキ or プレゼント at home... Nevertheless I said to them メリークリスマス and they never got offended! ^^
    – user1016
    Dec 27, 2012 at 17:06
  • Recently spent my first Christmas in Japan and was curious about this too. Decided to just ask some natives what people say to each other during Chrismas, and they all came up with メリークリスマス. Totally safe (especially if you consider Chocolate's comment). Jan 2, 2013 at 3:29

1 Answer 1


I believe most Japanese think of Christmas as a secular, commercial holiday (gift giving, christmas decorations, etc) rather than a religious celebration of the birth of Christ, so I would think that most would not even think to be offended. It might be out of place to say at a religious (Shinto or Buddhist) shrine or celebration, but I would think this would be obvious. The only reason it became politically correct to say Happy Holidays in the U.S., for instance, is due to the increased presence of religious minorities or atheists in what had been a firmly majority Christian nation. As Japan is one of the most secular nations on earth (with a Christian population of less than 2% of the general populace), I would think this consideration to be mostly irrelevant.

  • 2
    Overall agreed, but you seem to be a little confused on the meaning of 'secular'. Having a small percentage of Christians does not make your nation secular. Having a strong separation of religious powers and government/laws, as Japan mostly does (if you don't look too long in the direction of the New Komeito), despite over 90% of its population declaring itself religious, does make it a secular nation.
    – Dave
    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:31
  • Well, I did not say that Japan was a secular nation because it was not Christian (I think the "with" makes that clear). As per the wiki page on religion in Japan: "About 70% of Japanese profess no religious membership,[7][8] according to Johnstone (1993:323), 84% of the Japanese claim no personal religion." The wiki page cites numerous sources. Out of curiosity, where is your 90% number from? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_japan
    – yadokari
    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:49
  • The 2000 survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun found that 76.6% of Japanese do not believe in a specific religion.[26] The number increased to 72% by 2005, with only 25% believing in religion and 20% practicing faith.[28] According to Steve Heine in 2011, less than 15% of Japanese believe in God.[29] (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_japan)
    – yadokari
    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:57
  • Agreed. If it's a katakana word, you can be pretty sure that Japanese people have only a tenuous conception of the phrase's political overhead as it is in the States. It's entrenched Gairaigo, I don't live in Japan, but I'm guessing its usage, even in the media, is almost entirely devoid of sincere religious pretext. Although I don't think religious demography in Japan explains why it may or may not be politically correct.
    – taylor
    Dec 27, 2012 at 20:24
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    Ok, if it is your opinion that I am confused, then so be it. I don't think 90% of Japanese people are religious, but I would be interested in what your assertion for that number is based on. If an American couple gets married in a church, does that make them religious? I understand your point about the integration of ritual into Japanese society, but Japan does not strike me as a particularly religious society when compared to other countries.
    – yadokari
    Dec 29, 2012 at 19:18

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