A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
My blog will be on vacation over the Christmas holidays, but I hope you will visit this site for many more goodies in the new year. Speaking of goodies, there will be many this year who don’t have the means to purchase gifts, or who are estranged from family and friends, perhaps even suffering the loss of a loved one. Let’s keep those in mind as we indulge.
Merry Christmas, or, Happy Christmas?
Due to my merriment while some people suffer through Christmas, I wondered from where the phrase “Merry Christmas” originated. For me, the word merry conjures up visions of overworked, medieval folk with wide drunken grins, and red noses flaring, dancing arm-in-arm around the Christmas tree. Now that is MERRY!
After browsing the origin of Merry Christmas, I realized my merry-making medieval was not far off track. Rebecca Shinners, at this link, http://www.countryliving.com/life/a37128/origin-of-merry-christmas/ wrote in Country Living:
As December 25th approaches, we’ve found ourselves saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone from our grocery store cashier to our family members. But have you ever stopped to wonder where the phrase “Merry Christmas” comes from? In a world where it’s normal to say “Happy Easter” and “Happy Birthday,” the “merry” in “Merry Christmas” is unique.
The folks at Mental Floss recently pondered the same question and found that the answer goes back to the connotation of the two words. “Happy” is an emotional condition, while “merry” is a behavior. Furthermore, happy, which came from the word “hap,” meaning luck or chance implies good-fortune. Meanwhile, “merry” implies a more active showing of happiness—which you might think of as merry-making.
While both words have evolved and changed meaning over time (yes—people did once say “Happy Christmas”), people stopped using “merry” as its own individual word during the 18th and 19th centuries. It stuck around in common phrases like “the more, the merrier,” as well as in things like Christmas carols and stories, largely due to the influence of Charles Dickens. The Victorian Christmas went on to define many of today’s holiday customs.
Of course, “Happy Christmas” hasn’t faded completely—it’s still widely used in England. This is believed to be because “happy” took on a higher class connotation than “merry,” which was associated with the rowdiness of the lower classes. The royal family adopted “Happy Christmas” as their preferred greeting and others took note. Meanwhile, “Merry Christmas” took on sentimental meaning in the U.S. —even hearing “merry” on its own now makes us think of December 25th.
Have a Happy or Merry Christmas!
For the past twenty years, Barbara Studham parented four grandchildren, all diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Her two memoirs: Two Decades of Diapers, and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Teen Years, describe her challenges during their toddler years, and teens. She has also written fiction, including a six-book series titled, Under The Shanklin Sky; set in the seaside town of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight. She is currently creating a children’s FASD picture book series titled Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Now available is the first in the series titled The School Day.