The widely known greeting that as well can be used as a farewell – ‘Merry Christmas’ is used traditionally in North America. In the United Kingdom, and Ireland the equivalent is ‘Happy Christmas’. Christians begin using this greetings some few weeks before the Christmas Holiday on December 25 of every year.
“Merry” is derived from the Old English word ‘myrige’, originally meaning merely ‘pleasant’ and not jolly or joyous, as in the sentence ‘merry month of September’. The second part of this greeting – ‘Christmas’ also comes from the Old English: ‘Cristes maesse’, for Christ’s Mass. There are also some linguistical derivatives, such as “Merry Xmas”, most of the times used to avoid the longer and less convenient for some to write form of ‘Merry Christmas’ But some Christians consider the ‘X’ replacing “Christ” at least controversial.
Despite the fact Christmas has been celebrated, in the form close to the present one, back from the 4th century AD, the first usage of a greeting: ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’, that we know about was in a letter (an informal one) written by an English admiral in 1699. We can find he same greeting that appeared in the first manufactured Christmas card, printed in England in 1843, and of course in the widely sang secular carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
When we talk about Christmas and a greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ we have to realise how closely it is associated with the Christian religion. This rises another controversions, this time connected with the multilingual, multicultural and multireligious societies that we can find in the countries like (especially) United States, or United Kingdom. Nowadays, at the begining of the 21st century it is more often advised not to use a greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ in official speeches, like those of some government officials, politicians, teachers in schools and the like, because of the other, non-Christian faiths/beliefs/traditions also found in those countries.
So let us try to be more sensitive to and respectful of other, different than ours faiths. But also, in my opinion, we could recall the Early Christian root of Christmas celebrations to become a little bit more thoughtful in contrast to the global continuously growing commercialisation of the Christmas, that once upon a time used to be not only presents and fun… Merry Christmas to you all!