Even during Soviet years, there was a difference between Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. In my latest conversations with Russian friends, I'm having trouble explaining why The White House doesn't say Merry Christmas any more, if even the officially atheist Soviet Union did. My office building has posters downstairs saying "Peace on Earth", and "Happy Holidays". What's the reason for peace though? Is it a V-Day, or Veteran's Day, or anti-war demonstration day? The political correctness of the United States makes ex-Soviets laugh. The "appropriateness" of "anti-Christmas' is so overwhelming, that it looks almost made up. Why bother having a day off and even celebrating the "Peace on Earth Day", if you are not allowed to talk about the reason for the holiday?
in Russia and Ukraine, the few hour Christmas services are aired on all major TV channels, and are always attended by all major government officials, including the presidents and the mayors of the cities.
Eastern Orthodox Christmas is celebrated 13 days later than the rest of the world, which is resulted by the change of the calendar at the turn of the 16th,18th and 20th centuries. Happy Holidays happen on the 1st and 2nd of January, and Merry Christmas follows up on the 7th of January. However Russians love the federal holidays, and holidays in general, so they start out celebrating the so-called "Catholic" Christmas (the 25th of December), then they move on to the New Year's Eve, then sober up, do Christmas again (7th of January), and then the real fans of the holidays do the "Old New Year" which is also 13 days later, and comes on the 13th of January accordingly.
Trying to do any kind of business in Russia between December 25th and January 13th could cost you a lot of money. The banking system and government offices are closed, people travel abroad, or retire to their "dachas" - the country houses, or simply stay at home, drinking and watching holiday programs. Russian TV always puts out fresh Hollywood releases out on the 1st and 2nd of January to keep the public's attention, and make more money from the advertisements.
Anyway, Russians love Christmas, and they are very clear why Christmas is to be called Christmas, since "Peace on Earth" day is usually May 9th, when the nation celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany.
Below is a short English class essay, written by a high school student, who I mentor, and who at his 16 years of age understands the nonsense produced by the White House this year.
The Night before a Non-Denominational Winter Holiday formally know as The Night before Christmas (A.K.A the politically correct version)
It was the night before non-denominational winter holiday when all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The neutral gift sacks were hung by the chimney with care. In hopes that a non specific holiday figure would soon be there. Children of every race and nationality were resting all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar free plums danced in their heads.
When out on the lawn there rose such a clatter I got up out of bed to see what was the matter and to see who was violating the neighborhood sound level ordinance. But what to my wondering eyes did appear, but an emission free vehicle, and eight size-challenged reindeer? This holiday figure was so lively and quick I knew in a moment it must be -- some holiday figure. He had a broad but normal face and an advanced sized belly and he laughed lady of the evening, lady of the evening, lady of the evening.
Lady of the evening is supposed to sound like "Ho-Ho-Ho", which sounds like another English word, given the reader's imagination (YM).