Such as it is, the Holiday Season is about to begin. Their are a series of different approaches to it and in the last few years no real start time. There are the revelers who look forward to the season, decorating their homes and flooding facebook with their joy.
Then there are mild cases of BA Humbug. The holiday rule Nazis some call them. They patrol to ensure Nativity Scenes are on private property only. Those who want to determine what is acceptable and what is not. Some crusade against outdoor decorations before Remembrance Day.
With the advent of social media there is the push to say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays and insinuate there is an effort to persecute those who say Merry Christmas. There is some mysterious dark force behind the promotion of Happy Holidays they hint, and end with “I say Merry Christmas and you should too.” this is going to enlighten some confuse others and put a wet blanket on those who hint at some conspiracy or dark force and as some characterize it We are to use Happy Holidays so we don’t offend immigrants of one sect or another.
So, where and when did the Merry Christmas—Happy Holiday controversy begin? It will surprise many. During the 1500’s the old English word morphed into the word Christmas and from there Merry Christmas became the traditional greeting. But there is more to this than meets the eye. Before rendering the best saved for last, lets explore how we got into the war of words.
As with everything else our society has become polarized, our social views, our politics and even our economics. The more conservative voices tend to be more faith based and cling to tradition, where as those in the makeup of more broader based liberal view tend to say Happy Holidays. This overview was part of a survey from 2016 conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. Even in the polarized world we have there is no evidence of a sinister plot by anyone.
So what is the history behind the two greetings that are to bring greetings of hope and joy that become the words of angst. Here is the first curve ball. Remember I mentioned the greeting Merry Christmas was adapted from an old English word? That word was Cristes Maesse. Or as we would say, The Mass of Christ. These terms go back in Old English to the year 1038. So, Merry Christmas is the official greeting right? Well not so fast there is more. Ready for a head spinner?
The word Holiday arrived in the 1500’s and it came from the Old English word “hailiday”which came from the word “haligdaed” and that word meant Holy Day.
But wait for both sides being right and wrong there is more. In more recent times there is a more modern history of how we came to be yelling rejected greetings as polarized insults.
So how and why did Happy Holidays become popular? Look back down the road of history to 1863 when the words were prominently displayed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the twentieth century Happy Holidays were connected to gift giving of tobacco products by RJ Reynolds to promote Winston Salem Tobacco products as presents. Happy Holidays morphed into “Seasons Greeting” in the 1940’s primarily promoting Camel cigarettes.
By the late forties seasons greetings, happy holidays and Merry Christmas came with Coca-Cola Santa Clause, elves, Christmas Trees and all the glitz and glitter we can stuff into a few weeks.
So Merry Christmas stands for the Holy Greeting of the season. Happy Holidays comes from Holy Days and in some traditions it is the meaning of Advent and ends with the Epiphany.
So before we get our ugly Christmas Sweater in a knot, you are all right even if you don’t know you’re right. So while you contemplate this information I am going to open my Christmas Holiday fashion box with everything from my Santa Hat my Grinch T Shirt, Elf Slippers and my prized Merry Christmas From Folsom Prison pullover sweater and get in the spirit of whatever greeting you address me with.