Everywhere I go in town I hear the phrases Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Instead of goodbyes or see you laters, people are hugging each other with happy smiles and merry words. In restaurants, waitresses are treated like family members. In churches, greetings seem to last a little longer.
Acquaintances are asking about relatives and sending their hellos. Grocery checkout clerks are sharing recipes. Post office workers are delivering with Santa hats. It is the most wonderful time of the year.
All of it works because we choose to speak to each other differently. The words we say matter. Try it, say Merry Christmas to everyone you see. You’ll notice frowns turn upside down. Sometimes it surprises people. Other times, people say it back, just because you said it.
Merry Christmas. It’s a wonderful phrase. So are Happy New Year and Happy Holidays. I choose to say Merry Christmas just because it makes me feel good to say it. All seasonal sayings are special. They unite us because we are all aware of them. They make us happy because they exist for just a matter of time.
The first commercial Christmas card was sold in 1843. It featured an illustration of a family wearing winter coats, smiling and sharing. Underneath were the words “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You”. It was a family looking at the reader of the card and personally sending a message of good cheer.
Merry Christmas as a phrase dates back, at least, to 1534 when John Fisher, a Catholic bishop, sent a letter to Thomas Cromwell, the 1st Earl of Essex. In it, Fisher wrote “and this our Lord God send you a mery Christmas, and a comfortable, to your heart’s desire.”
Today, the British wish each other Happy Christmas. In Mexico, the term Feliz Navidad is used. The French say Joyeux Noel. They all sound beautiful. They all sound joyful.
I’ve caught myself saying Merry Christmas to everyone I come across. I say it because I notice that it brings a little bit of cheer for a brief moment. It’s a phrase that connects us to someone else. It makes us feel like we are all neighbors, like we know each other more than really do. It makes us feel that we care about each other and want each other to be happy.
In no other time of the year, during no other holiday, does a phrase become so powerful and mean so much. Maybe there is something else that helps the phrase carry so much meaning. Two words cannot survive for so long and still resonate without something special. Something that can’t be explained. You just have to believe.
You just have to believe.