Christmas is known as the festival for sharing love and gifts. Every festival has a specific way in which people wish others. Similarly, people wish each other on Christmas day by saying Merry Christmas. But, very few of us know about the origin of Merry Christmas and what does Merry Christmas mean. So in this article, we will get discover what does Merry Christmas mean and why we use this phrase to wish each other on Christmas. Let’s dive in!
1. What is Christmas?
December 25 is considered the birthday of Jesus Christ by the Christian community. Although there is no record of the exact month and date of Jesus Christ’s birth, in the 4th century, this day of 25th December was decided by the Church to be observed as the day of Christ’s birthday. Since then, 25th December has been marked and celebrated as Christmas Day across the world. (See Why Is Memorial Day A Holiday?)
2. How did Christmas Day Originate?
Earlier, there were no such traditions to celebrate birthdays among the Christians. Therefore, there are no records mentioned by the ancient Christian writers and philosophers Irenaeus and Tertullian about celebrating Christ’s birthday on 25th December. However, some evidence prove the origin of this auspicious day:
- Sometime near 336 BC, it has been mentioned that the Christmas celebration took place just eight days before the month of January in Rome.
- Eastern Christians celebrated it on January 6th because they connect it with Epiphany (a belief that God resurrected in the form of Jesus Christ). The cultural practices and traditions followed by them are considered Orthodox.
- Apart from these, the day of Christ’s birth was observed as a day of grand feast in several regions like Constantinople (modern Istanbul), and Alexandria, a city in Egypt.
3. What is the Meaning behind the word Christmas?
- The word Christ was derived from the translated version of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means anointed.
- The other part of the word mas was derived from the Latin word Maesse which means the celebration of Eucharist (a religious ceremony of Christians to purify people).
- The word Cristesmaesse was recorded in the year 1038, and the word Cristes-messe was recorded in the year 1131.
Hence, the word Christmas means a day of Christ that is celebrated by the masses. The next segment will discuss what does merry Christmas mean. (See Phase vs Faze)
4. What does Merry Christmas Mean?
As discussed above, Christmas is the day of Christ’s birth which is celebrated by masses, a large religious group. The phrase Merry Christmas is simply a greeting used to wish someone a joyous holiday. To further break it down – merry means to make merry or have a good time, so in this context, merry Christmas is a greeting exchanged during the festive season to wish one another a joyous time. (See Kudos Origin and Meaning)
5. How Happy and Merry get incorporated in Christmas greetings?
- The word Merry has been printed and written on Christmas greetings ever since 1534. It was evident from the dated letter that was from John Fisher (a bishop) to Thomas Cromwell (Chief Minister of King Henry VIII).
- Later in the 1500s, merry Christmas became famous people through the famous Christmas Carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas and also included this greeting.
- But the greeting of Happy Christmas has always been used among the people of the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom always wishes the citizens, Happy Christmas.
- With time, people of many countries started to wish Happy Christmas rather than the merry one because of their perceived meaning of merry. It happened somewhere between the 18th and 19th centuries. (See Burrito vs Taco vs Fajita)
6. What is the Difference between Merry & Happy?
The meaning of the word Merry is related to the act of merrymaking or indulging in some acts to make the time fun-filled, while the word Happy means to stay and remain happy, to feel joy from within. So when people wish us Happy Christmas, it gives a feeling that they wish for our happiness, and they want our holidays and our festival to be filled with happiness and joy. When they wish Merry Christmas, it means to have merry and enjoyment during the holidays and festival. (See Do people in Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo?)
7. Who initiated the use of Merry Christmas in Literature & Media?
Charles Dickens was the first author to popularize this phrase through literature. What does merry Christmas mean to our favorite author is evident as the phrase appears in his story A Christmas Carol. The story was published in 1843, and it made this phrase of Christmas greeting a popular one.
In the same year, Christmas cards were printed with this phrase. It was after these works that the phrase Merry Christmas became more popular. (See The History of Medieval Jesters)
8. How is Christmas Celebrated?
Christmas is the biggest festival among Christians, but several non-Christian regions also celebrate this day.
- They decorate Christmas trees, light up the towns, cities, malls, streets, etc. During the month of December, everyone would be happy and busy decorating their houses and distributing gifts.
- The night of the 24th of December is known as Christmas Eve, and it is obligatory for all Catholics to visit the Church to participate in the prayer as a part of their culture and tradition.
Christmas celebrations without decorations would look dull. Therefore, decorations are an essential part of this festival, and the traditional decoration colors are red, gold and green. (See Why Did the Grinch Hate Christmas?)
9. What do various Christmas Colors Symbolize?
- The color gold has a special relation with Christmas because it symbolizes royalty. Magi (the wise men or pilgrims who reached the birthplace of Jesus by following the star) offered three gifts to Baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Here, gold is the symbol of royalty and loyalty.
- The color Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus shed during his crucifixion.
- The color green represents eternal life. The reason to choose the evergreen tree is that this is the only tree that does not shed its leaves during the winter season, which again symbolizes eternal life. (See Why Are Red and Green Traditional Christmas Colors?)
So, now we know what does merry Christmas mean, why it is used, and when it was first coined!