The ‘Merry’ in ‘Merry Christmas’


I was curious to know when the traditional wish for someone to have a “merry Christmas” began, especially in comparison to the “happy holiday” greeting which is now often used as a replacement. So, I found some interesting information from the link below.

What many do not realize is that even if you say the word “holiday,” it is derived from two words: “holy day.” So, no matter how a person might try to remove the Christian aspect out of it by omitting “Christmas,” it still implies a “religious” occasion, not purely secular. Of course, there are other ways to get around it, like “season’s greetings.” But that brings to mind the familiar sentence: “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

As to the word “merry,” there is also a difference of thought among some, depending on where one is from. On this side of the globe, we might think of merry as being joyous or jolly. But in the Old English, “merry” used to simply mean “pleasant.” To me, to wish someone a “pleasant Christmas” or “pleasant holiday” doesn’t seem to have the same kick compared to bidding someone a jolly or joyful one, as in “Joy to the World!”

After all, the angel didn’t announce, “I have some pleasant news for you.” Ho-hum! Rather, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people!” (Luke 2:10.), followed with the heavenly host presenting a grand anthem of glorious praise to God on high (v. 14). So, in that sense, I’d prefer the more modern way we think of “merry” in terms of joy and jubilation.

Speaking of change, we do have to add a word of caution when it comes to words to describe happy and merry nowadays. Not many years ago, certain Christmas songs and poems included the thought of having a “gay” yuletide season. Yet in this day and age, many would be hesitant to wish someone a “gay” holiday for fear of being misunderstood. So, “happy” or “joyous” appears more acceptable to all.

On the other hand, in other parts of the world, “merry” has the negative connotation of being tipsy or drunk which is why some prefer saying “Happy Christmas,” instead. Perhaps, for this reason, “Merry New Year” fits in better for some if you get my drift!

I would suggest that if we want to avoid being misunderstood when we use words like “merry” or “happy,” then maybe a better word to use is “blessed.” After all, “blessed” has more of a religious ring while at the same time, it does mean “happy.”

Compare this to the beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “Blessed are…” Blessed literally means “happy.” These “kingdom” sayings have been uniquely coined, “the be-happy attitudes.” Why not try this sometime: Say to someone, “Have a most blessed Christmas holy day,” and see what response you might get.

Good News AND a most blessed Christmas holy day to you!

Pastor Michael

For more information, see link:

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