Search giant Google has on Thursday posted its third 'Happy Holidays' doodle, following its Christmas Eve and Christmas Day doodles. The doodle depicts an isolated house surrounded by snow, with a star-lit sky forming the backdrop, and the message "'Tis the season!" visible when users roll their cursors over it.
While the set of Google doodles can be thought to encompass the entire holiday period from Christmas to New Year, December 26 is also Boxing Day. Boxing Day is a tradition that is thought to stretch back to the Middle Ages, when employees would be given a 'Christmas box' of gifts from their employers on the day following Christmas Day.
In modern times however, Boxing Day is an official bank or federal holiday in many of the Commonwealth nations. In some European countries, December 26 is also celebrated as the Second Christmas Day, while in Ireland it is called St. Stephen's Day, or the Day of the Wren. South Africa renamed its Boxing Day holiday to the Day of Goodwill in relatively recent times (1994).
With this much ambiguity about just what December 26 represents, even in countries with a majority Christian population, it's hard not to agree with Google's diplomatic naming of its series of doodles as Happy Holidays for a more appropriate global reception.
However, just like last year, when Google straddled the same fence, the online masses are once again debating if the search giant has been too diplomatic by not wishing search users Merry Christmas instead of just Happy Holidays.
Last year's naming debate saw Google's supporters pointing out the usual proximity of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah to Christmas, which often saw people wishing each other 'Happy Holidays' during the common festive period, especially if uncertain about the other's specific faith. Detractors have more ammunition in 2013 however, with Hanukkah having finished in early December, and arguably not a part of the same holiday period.
Ironically however, this year, the start of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving day, and the latter was featured as the subject of the video doodle by Google (seen below).
Google's supporters in the doodle-naming debate also agree that the week in December leading up to New Year's does not necessarily mean Christmas to many people, but does mean holidays for most, whether in the northern or southern hemispheres, winter or summer.
Its detractors in the debate say Google should either display specific doodles to specific regions, or have the courage to name the day as it is most famously known across the globe. To be fair though, while the Happy Holidays search term remains, the roll-over text was changed from "Happy Holidays from Google!" to the slightly more specific " 'Tis the season!'" (which refers to a popular Christmas carol) by Google on December 25, perhaps in cognisance of the debate.
Anthony Hobkirk said: "I too find it funny that people would take offence to whatever you choose to call the holiday. As a Christian I don't mind when people of the Islammic faith has Eid, if the Jewish people have Yom Kippur, or whatever festivals you choose to celebrate. It is all about respect and what better time of the year to show respect than when we celebrate the birth of the greatest gentleman of them all, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas to all, and if that offends you, happy holidays."
John said: It is about time we stop the happy holidays and remember that Christmas has been the American way from the beginning of our nation. Even when groups tried to stop the celebration all together, it still went on. For Christians is the day Christ is celebrated for becoming the God-man. For others it means other things, but still it finds its roots in the message of Christ. True the date may not be the right one, true a another festival in history was hijacked, but since the 200 to 300's it has been about the coming of Christ to be the sacrifice for our sins. So this is about Merry Christmas. Wish others with their views their holiday celebration and traditions, but do not water this one down with a general term that really means nothing. Merry CHRISTmas to all.