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Why "merry" not happy...

Posted by ESC on January 18, 2000

In Reply to: Merry Christmas, origin of posted by Paul on January 17, 2000

: I'm just curious as to whey we say merry christmas and not happy christmas.

: Paul

WHY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND NOT HAPPY? -- All I can figure is that at one point, people in England went around calling everything "merrie." They weren't necessarily happy, but by golly, they were merrie. I based that theory on the following:

"Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, second edition, 1977) "Merrie England. England of the Anglo-Saxon period and the Middle Ages was not a very happy place to be, let alone 'merrie.' So why this phrase indicating revelry and joyous spirits, as if England were one perpetual Christmastime? The answer is that the word 'merrie' originally meant merely 'pleasing and delightful,' not bubbling over with festive spirits, as it does today. The same earlier meaning is found in the famous expression, 'the merry month of May.'"

My only other Merry Christmas fact, recycled from an earlier inquiry: "The tradition of sending Christmas cards originated in the mid-1800's when a few people began to design handmade cards to send to family and friends. A man named John Calcott Horsely is credited as being the first to actually print Christmas cards. The card depicted a family enjoying the holiday, with scenes of people performing acts of charity. The card was inscribed:"Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You" This comes from a very nice site that has origins of other Christmas traditions.

Not a very strong case, but all I could come up with. Maybe some of the other Phrase Finders will have a different view.