Here is a brief history of the origin and evolution of merry Christmas as a Christmas greeting. Read on and find how it came to modern day usage.
Merry Christmas Origin
This Christmas time greeting has been subjected to many disputes and conflicts. The word 'Merry', which owes its root to the Old English 'myrige', originally meant 'pleasant, and agreeable' rather than joyous or jolly. For instance, in other 'merry' phrases such as 'make merry' (circa 1300), 'Merry England' (circa 1400) and 'the merry month of May (1560s'), the word 'merry' was commonly used to mean 'pleasant, peaceful and agreeable'. Many puritanical preferred Happy Christmas over Merry Christmas including the Methodist Victorian middle-class for whom, 'merry' meant 'tipsy' or 'drunk' which obviously had a negative connotation w.r.t. Christmas celebrations. However, much of the credit for the common practice of using "Merry Christmas" goes to the famous author Charles Dickens of U.K., who popularized the phrase through his book 'A Christmas Carol'. If you wish to learn more about the evolution of the word merry in Christmas greetings then go through the following lines.
Origin Of Merry Christmas
- Even though Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century AD, the first of any sort of Christmastime greeting appeared only in 1565. It first appeared in 'The Hereford Municipal Manuscript' in the lines, "And thus I comytt you to God, who send you a merry Christmas." In 1699, a combined greeting of "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" was found in an informal letter which was written by an English admiral. The same greeting was also present in the sixteenth century secular English carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and also on the first ever commercial Christmas card which appeared in England in 1843.
- During the mid-Victorian revival of the holiday, Charles Dickens' first mentioned this greeting in his book, 'A Christmas Carol'. The word Merry was now gradually coming to mean "jovial, cheerful, jolly and outgoing." In the book, the cynical Ebenezer Scrooge blatantly rebuked this friendly greeting saying "If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding." However, following the visit from the Ghosts of Christmas, Scrooge exclaimed "I am as merry as a school-boy. A Merry Christmas to everybody!" and heartily exchanged the wish with everyone. Thus, the popularization of the phrase "Merry Christmas" in the Victorian era can be attributed to the success of 'A Christmas Carol'.
- The alternative "Happy Christmas" gained usage in the late 19th century, and is still common in the U.K. and Ireland alongside "Merry Christmas". But because for the Methodist Victorian middle-class, merry still meant "tipsy" or "drunk", Queen Elizabeth II preferred "Happy Christmas".
- In America, poet Clement Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (1823), the final line was initially written as "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night,". But the greeting was changed in later editions and "Merry Christmas to all," started appearing, suggesting the relative popularity of the phrases in the U.S.
Written above is brief account of how the phrase "Merry Christmas" came into usage. Though initially, the use of the phrase during the Christmas was much despised, today it is popular and most common in Christmas greetings.