Why is it that all of our holidays and special occasions are prefaced by “happy”—Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Easter, Happy Birthday, etc.—except Christmas?
It’s always Merry Christmas?
The folks at Mental Floss looked into the question and found that the answer goes back centuries, to the connotation of the two words.
In Victorian England, the era that advised many of our modern Christmas traditions, “merry” was used by Charles Dickens and in Christmas carols.
Bûche de Noël, the classic Christmas yule* log cake (photo courtesy Pom Wonderful).
However, in the U.K., “happy” took on a higher-class connotation, while “merry” was associated with the rowdiness of the lower classes.
The royals preferred “happy.” King George V greeted “Happy Christmas” in his first Christmas radio broadcast, in 1932. That gave it the stamp of approval to his subjects.
In the U.S., “Merry Christmas” became preferred for its sentimental meaning. Even hearing the word “merry” on its own makes many of us think of Christmas.
Whatever your choice, we wish you a Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate the holiday, we wish you all the good sentiment it connotes.
*Yule is an archaic word for Christmas. Yule or Yuletide was a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples. It later became Christianized into the terms Christmas and Christmastide.