Are ‘holidays’ more inclusive than ‘Christmas’?

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Are ‘holidays’ more inclusive than ‘Christmas’?

Is Europe more inclusive without Christmas? Do ‘holidays’ threaten Europe’s Christian roots? Read and find out more about holidays and inclusion.

During the past weeks, a number of guidelines from the European Commission have caused confusion and anger. At the end of October 2021, commissioner for equality Helena Dalli presented a document encouraging the commissioners to use terms such as ‘holiday season’, instead of ‘Christmas’.[1] Similarly, the guidelines discouraged the use of gendered words and pronouns.[2]

A number of politicians and the Vatican criticised the document for denying Europe’s Christian roots when rejecting the use of words such as ‘Christmas’.[3] [4] However, others have criticised the European Union for not being inclusive enough. For example, the European Commission does not have any non-white members.[5] The document has now been withdrawn but the question remains: is tradition against diversity? Let us look at the debate about holiday traditions and diversity.

Either Christmas or inclusion?

Many European countries have reacted to the part of the document that suggests the word Christmas should no longer be used. In Italy, different political parties rejected the idea of a Europe that forgets its roots.[6] [7] On the contrary, according to many politicians, Europe should be proud of its origins and learn how to celebrate them, instead of impeding the use of the word Christmas.[8] The Vatican found that cancelling Christmas would imply denying Europe’s Christian roots. But not only this, as Cardinal Pietro Parolin explained that, over time, forgetting the influence Christianity had on Europe and denying the differences between different people can have dangerous consequences.[9] [10] As Cardinal Parolini explained, “destroying the difference and destroying the roots means precisely to destroy the person.”[11]

In the French newspaper La Croix, Isabelle de Gaulmyn found that the values of solidarity that influenced the opening of Europe to refugees in 2015 could be seen as the result of Christian teachings.[12] In other words, the manual and its proposition to stop using the term Christmas seem to have united many different political voices in their cry for respecting Europe’s Christian roots. Many journalists and the Vatican shared in this cry. Some, however, found that the question had been too politicised. In the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, Heidi Avellan commented that Christmas is safe for this year. However, she warns that similar propositions often become a way of giving too much power and attention to nationalistic parties.[13] Similarly, the website Politico argues that right-wing politicians are usually quick to connect inclusive language to the suppression of roots and identity.[14] Seen from this point of view, it seems as if the need to keep Christmas and tradition is not only of historical and religious importance, but also of a political one.

Inclusion against tradition?

While restrictions on the use of the word Christmas has led to many protests, the inclusive aim of the document has also been criticised. The document suggested that words such as ‘chairman’ or ‘ladies and gentlemen’ should be substituted with gender-neutral alternatives such as ‘chairperson’. Italian newspaper Il Giornale comments that there is nothing wrong in defining a woman as a ‘lady’.[15] More generally, the same newspaper criticises the use of words such as parent 1 and parent 2 instead of father and mother.[16] The website Politico, on the other hand, does not find the use of gender-neutral words as particularly striking, since similar propositions have been made before.[17] In addition, the idea of using the word ‘holidays’ instead of ‘Christmas’ seems to have been connected to the need to remind the commissioners that not everyone is Christian.[18] [19]

Debaters in different countries agree on the importance of inclusion and respect. However, they find that the right way to promote these features would be to recognise that people are different, instead of trying to eliminate these differences.[20] [21] [22]

Is tradition against diversity?

The discussion following the internal document of the European Commission shows that tradition can sometimes seem to be against diversity. In this particular case, the document suggested avoiding the use of words connected to traditional holidays as a way of acknowledging diversity. On the one hand, as many have pointed out, diversity can be appreciated without forgetting the past and neglecting different traditions.[23] [24] [25] On the other hand, the document tried to make the Commission more inclusive through the use of non-gendered words and pronouns.[26] Tradition does not need to be against diversity. Inclusion, however, takes more to achieve than substituting ‘Christmas’ with ‘holidays’.

Annamaria Laviola-Svensäter

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[1] EU advice on inclusive language withdrawn after rightwing outcry

[2] EU advice on inclusive language withdrawn after rightwing outcry

[3] EU withdraws communication manual which dropped use of word “Christmas”

[4] Retromarcia Ue sulla censura. Salvi “Maria” e “Buon Natale”. È la vittoria dei moderati

[5] EU advice on inclusive language withdrawn after rightwing outcry

[6] Retromarcia Ue sulla censura. Salvi “Maria” e “Buon Natale”. È la vittoria dei moderati

[7] Commission inclusive communication guidelines

[8] Retromarcia Ue sulla censura. Salvi “Maria” e “Buon Natale”. È la vittoria dei moderati

[9] EU withdraws communication manual which dropped use of word “Christmas” – Vatican News

[10] Ta bort julen – EU drar tillbaka förslag – Vatican News

[11] EU withdraws communication manual which dropped use of word “Christmas” – Vatican News

[12] Noël et l’auto-amnésie de l’Europe

[13] Nej, inte heller EU stjäl julen. – Sydsvenskan

[14] Happy ‘They’re Trying To Cancel Christmas!’ everyone – POLITICO

[15] Natale e cristiani. La Ue dimostra di stare sulla luna

[16] C’è una speranza contro chi taglia radici – ilGiornale.it

[17] Happy ‘They’re Trying To Cancel Christmas!’ everyone – POLITICO

[18] EU advice on inclusive language withdrawn after rightwing outcry | European Commission | The Guardian

[19] Happy ‘They’re Trying To Cancel Christmas!’ everyone – POLITICO

[20] Natale e cristiani. La Ue dimostra di stare sulla luna

[21] Nej, inte heller EU stjäl julen. – Sydsvenskan

[22] EU withdraws communication manual which dropped use of word “Christmas” – Vatican News

[23] Ta bort julen – EU drar tillbaka förslag – Vatican News

[24] Natale e cristiani. La Ue dimostra di stare sulla luna – ilGiornale.it

[25] EU withdraws communication manual which dropped use of word “Christmas” – Vatican News

[26] EU advice on inclusive language withdrawn after rightwing outcry | European Commission | The Guardian