To all, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

For those of you interested in the history of the term Merry Christmas here is a brief excerpt from Wikipedia.

“Merry,” derived from the Old English myrige, originally meant merely “pleasant, and agreeable” rather than joyous or jolly (as in the phrase “merry month of May”).[2]

Though Christmas has been observed since the 4th century AD, the first known usage of any Christmastime greeting, dates back to 1565, when it appeared in The Hereford Municipal Manuscript: “And thus I comytt you to God, who send you a mery Christmas.”[2]Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” (thus incorporating two greetings) was in an informal letter written by an English admiral in 1699. The same phrase is contained in the sixteenth century secular English carolWe Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and the first commercial Christmas card, produced in England in 1843.

Also in 1843, Charles DickensA Christmas Carol was published, during the mid Victorian revival of the holiday. The word Merry was then beginning to take on its current meaning of “jovial, cheerful, jolly and outgoing.”[2]Merry Christmas” in this new context figured prominently in A Christmas Carol. The cynical Ebenezer Scrooge rudely deflects the friendly greeting: “If I could work my will.. every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding.”[3] After the visit from the Ghosts of Christmas effects his transformation, Scrooge exclaims; “I am as merry as a school-boy. A merry Christmas to everybody!” and heartily exchanges the wish to all he meets.[4] The instant popularity of A Christmas Carol, the Victorian era Christmas traditions it typifies, and the term’s new meaning appearing in the book, Dickens’ tale popularized the phrase “Merry Christmas.”[5][6]

The alternative “Happy Christmas” gained usage in the late 19th century, and is still common in the U.K. and Ireland alongside “Merry Christmas”. One reason may be the Methodist Victorian middle-class influence in attempting to separate their construct of wholesome celebration of the Christmas season from that of common lower-class public insobriety and associated asocial behaviour, in a time where merry was also understood to mean “tipsy” or “drunk”. Queen Elizabeth II is said to prefer “Happy Christmas” for this reason.[2] In the American poet Clement Moore‘s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1823), the final line, originally written as “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night,” has been changed in many later editions to “Merry Christmas to all,” perhaps indicating the relative popularity of the phrases in the U.S.

Advertisements