Have you ever wondered why we always say “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Christmas?” Turns out, there’s a rich history on why we say this greeting, this way.
Well, before we start the history lesson, first know that the “Happy Christmas” greeting is still being used, especially in many parts of the United Kingdom such as England.
Since we can hear that’s how Queen Elizabeth greet the British citizens in her annual broadcast.
But the question is, why? Why does the royal family prefer to greet with “Happy Christmas” rather than a Merry one? This is because it is believed that “happy” took on a higher class connotation than “merry,” which was associated with the rowdiness of the lower classes.
Shocking right? However, the Merry Christmas greeting has been around for far longer than you think.
So, when did this all begin? It began, with a letter.
“Merry Christmas” has been used for centuries and it dates back to at least 1534 in London, when bishop John Fisher sent a letter to Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell, greeting him with: “And this our Lord God send you a merry Christmas, and a comfortable, to your heart’s desire.”
They say “Merry Christmas” is the more traditional way of greeting since it conveys more emotional and unrestrained, as historians say, a behavior descriptor, while, “Happy Christmas” is conservative and reserved as “Happy” is a word that describes an inner emotional condition.
Even the Christmas carol that everyone knows, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which was introduced in the 1500s, used the merry word than the happy one.
Charles Dikens actually played a part?
Over time, both words evolved and changed meanings. By the 18th and 19th centuries, people slowly stopped using “merry” as their own individual word.
But the greeting was made popular thanks to these two different sources: Sir Henry Cole and Charles Dickens.
Did you know that the first-ever Christmas card sent way back in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole had this wording on it: “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”
It was the first commercially-sold Christmas card that year!
And it was also because of the story about a stingy grumpy old man getting visitors from the ghosts of Past, Present, and Future for him to learn the importance of Christmas, entitled A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens.
Fun fact, did you know that “Merry Christmas” appears 21 times in the book?
So there you have it, this ends the history lesson. But, whether you greet with a Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas, doesn’t really matter most. It’s the exchanging of greetings wishing someone a merry or happy holiday.