Holiday greetings from Kaplan International

Kaplan International Christmas wishes

With Christmas, New Year's Day, Chinese New Year and Hanukkah just around the corner, we thought it was high time we brushed up our 'holiday greetings' skills! If you have always wondered what the difference between “Happy Christmas” and “Merry Christmas” was, keep reading to have your questions answered...

“Happy Christmas” and “Merry Christmas” are usually wished in  the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland , New Zealand and Australia. Even though Christmas is a Christian tradition, many non-religious people use this greeting as well.

In the phrase “Merry Christmas”, “merry” means “jolly” or “happy”. Some people also say “Merry Xmas”, to avoid writing Christmas fully, the “X” replacing “Christ”. This greeting is especially widespread among young people, or by people using text messages and online networking sites.

“Happy Christmas” is an equivalent to “Merry Christmas”. It is not particularly popular in the USA, but quite common in the UK and Ireland.

This still doesn't explain us what the difference between “Happy Christmas” and “Merry Christmas” is..but no worries, we have decided to investigate the meaning of the different phrases to resolve this mystery! Here comes a little bit of history...

“Merry” comes from the Old English noun “myrige”. Originally, “myrige" meant "pleasant, and agreeable" rather than “joyous” or “jolly”. Merry Christmas was used for the first time in 1565 in the Hereford Municipal Manuscript. In 1699, an English admiral used the greeting in one of its letters. But Britons had to wait until 1843 to see the real popularization of the greeting. And it is no one but Charles Dickens, the father of Oliver Twist, who popularized the expression “Merry Christmas” when he wrote “A Christmas Carol”.

As for “Happy Christmas”, the expression was commonly used in the 19th century in the UK. At the time, “merry” also meant “tipsy” and “drunk”. Therefore, using “Happy Christmas” was an attempt for the Victorian middle class to differentiate itself from the lower class, which it judged to be “asocial”. This is why the term is still used by some Conservative families nowadays (and the Queen herself!).

But our review about holiday greetings wouldn't be complete without looking at the phrase “Happy Holidays”. This term was popularized in the 70s, but it is unclear when it was first used. This phrase has the advantage to include not only Christmas but also other holidays such as Hanukkah or New Year's. It is also a sign that the population is increasingly diverse nowadays, some celebrating Christmas, and some not.
So which form do you prefer? Do you also think Happy Holidays is more neutral? Leave us a comment to let us know!

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