In the checkout lane of the supermarket the woman checking out in front of me wished the checkout person “Merry Christmas.” She smiled and sort of blushed, then said, “Remember when we couldn’t say that?” The checker and the bagger both smiled, and at the same time said back to the woman, “Merry Christmas.” Walking away with her shopping bag, the woman turned back to the checkout counter and said, “You know, I never stopped saying it, and I never will.”
Over the last decade in America, we all became more inclusive of other cultures and more respectful of the way different races and cultures celebrated this time of year. There was a trend to avoid the phrase, or at least to revise it to “Happy Christmas”, or “Happy Holidays.”
But in 2016, on a blustery, snowy day in New Hampshire, Donald Trump was in full campaign mode before a cheering crowd packed into the SNHU ice hockey arena in Manchester. He’d been talking about supporting the military and police officers when he stopped, pointed his finger at the audience, and shouted, “And you are going to be able to say, ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” The crowd roared, and the rest is history.
The origin of the phrase “Merry Christmas” is a bit sketchy, but it may have been first used in a non-religious Christmas song in the 1600s that we all know and sing: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” In 1843, Charles Dickens used the same phrase in his novel “A Christmas Carol” and it was used as the sentiment on the first-ever commercially printed Christmas card.
The word “merry” probably comes from the old fashioned “merrymaking of the holiday” promoted by Dickens, a message of love, joy, and well wishes that we all make, irrespective of our individual belief systems or political leanings. It’s become a universal term communicating joy and good wishes, and can be used by people of all races and religious backgrounds during Christmas time.
So from us to you at this wonderful time of the year, “Merry Christmas!”