You’ll hear it again, I’m sure. All the flap about saying, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.” People seem to bring it up every year. So what’s the big deal? What’s in a word? Can’t you say either phrase and mean the same thing by it?
Well, I’m not so sure. Happy holidays focuses on everything from Halloween through New Years. That’s four holidays…holidays that are quite different from each other. But even the phrase Happy holidays betrays itself. The word holiday is a shortened form of an older English phrase: “Holy Day.” So whether you say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” you’re still referring primarily to a Christian holy day which celebrates Jesus Christ’s birth! Therefore, people who want to avoid reference to Christmas (a Christian holiday) should be consistent and invent a new phrase of their own. I suggest, “Have a happy day off work with your family,” because that’s all December 25 means to some people.
What’s in a word? A lot! Words convey meanings. They talk about what we want to say. When they don’t carry the significance of what we want to communicate, we should find a new way to phrase the point we’re making.
What does “Merry Christmas” mean? First, CHRISTmas is a reference to Jesus Christ, specifically the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem as narrated in the Bible. Also, ChristMAS expresses thoughts associated with worship on the day when Christians celebrate Christ’s birth. MAS refers to the Roman Catholic Mass as practiced in the Middle Ages…a worshipful celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth which included the offering of the Lord’s Supper to Christian believers. Also, the word MERRY means happy, joyous, cheerful. Merry Christmas is a wish that others will celebrate the birth of Jesus with feelings of pleasure and delight. Say it to someone, and you’re wishing—praying?—that God will give them great satisfaction and eagerness while worshiping his Son. There’s a lot in this phrase for me. So…
Merry Christmas to you and yours!