Happy vs. Merry Christmas

Happy vs. Merry Christmas

You have probably heard plenty of wishes of “Merry Christmas” long before today, the day they refer to. You may even have had some people wish you “Happy Christmas.”

But of course, it takes me to take a look at the difference between the two sayings.

Happy, according to my home dictionary (Webster’s New Twentieth Century — and I know, “new” and that century are clashing a bit), is “1. lucky, fortunate, favored by circumstance; 2. having, showing, or causing a feeling of great pleasure, joy, contentment, etc.; joyous; glad; pleased; satisfied.”

Merry, in the same dictionary, is “1. full of fun and laughter; lively and cheerful; gay; mirthful; 2. festive.”

Well, things have not looked all that full of laughter around here today, but I assure you that I have had fun. I’ve just watched “The Bishop’s Wife,” a 1947 movie with Loretta Young in the title role, David Niven as the bishop, and Cary Grant as the angel. (Like Sally Rogers in the famous Christmas episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” if an angel comes, “I would like to order something Cary Grant-y.”)

So that’ll fit the merry definition. But it is a happy day, too — pleasure, joy and contentment are all here. I’m enjoying anticipating reading at church tomorrow, too. But I’d better go from anticipating to practicing, so good night.

Whether you prefer a merry day or a happy one, I hope Christmas is turning out well for you, dear readers.

Filed under: Expressions, Uncategorized


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  • Well done. Cheers and thank you, Margaret Serious!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    You're welcome. Cheers and thanks for reading, Weather Girl.

  • The British say "Happy Christmas" and "Merry New Year" because "merry" has the connotation of mischief-making over there, in addition to laughter, Back when linguistic habits were being formed, that was considered inappropriate when commemorating the birth of the Savior, hence "happy." New Year's, however, was a time to for festivities.

  • In reply to Grundoon:

    You're quite correct, Grundoon. I treasure memories of staying in Scotland with my cousins from Dec. 23-Jan. 2 of 19, er, longtimeago. Christmas was for church and the quiet sort of happiness, and Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) was the time for merriment. I remember that we watched a folk songs program (since music runs deep in all branches of my family), and the song "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" came on. As it was being introduced, my cousin Margaret said "We'll sing this for you tonight." (Yes, I've been back.)

  • Several recent tangents:
    Happy definition #1: The 12-minute "Year in Review" segments on the news leave the impression that 2021 was the worst year possible, although I wasn't around during WWII.
    One of the definitions of merry has been co-opted.

  • Two observations. (1) After further review, the call on the 'field and fountain' stands. (2) The Sally Rogers quote doesn't ring a bell.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you. I love the review on the "field and fountain, moor and mountain." As for the Sally Rogers quote, it's from a song called "Santa, Send a Fella." Merry second day of Christmas -- here it is from Bing and You Tube (and me): https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=santa+send+a+fella&qpvt=santa+send+a+fella&view=detail&mid=E2061E72FC4C5FA0D2DDE2061E72FC4C5FA0D2DD&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dsanta%2Bsend%2Ba%2Bfella%26qpvt%3Dsanta%2Bsend%2Ba%2Bfella%26FORM%3DVDRE

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    In case the URL doesn't work any better than it looks, here is a snippet of the lyrics from "Alan Brady Presents" and the song, "Santa, Send a Fella,"
    Santa, send a fella into my life --
    Someone who is shopping around for a wife!
    I would like to order something Cary Grant-y,
    but I'd even settle for a James Durante.
    Santa, send a fella; that's my request --
    as long as he's still breathing, he passes the test!
    Forget the fancy paper and the pretty bow;
    just wind him up, Santa, and left him go.
    Now your answer may be "Dear Madam,
    It's better to give than to receive."
    And my reply will be -- "You're right!
    Give me an Adam on Christmas Eve!"

    Er, not that I've been spending any time memorizing it or anything. Not lately.

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