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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Holidays Greetings include Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Happy Thanksgiving

Graphic ChristmasHoliday greetings are a selection of greetings that are often spoken with good intentions to strangers, family, friends, or other people during the months of December and January. Holidays with greetings include Christmas, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving (in the USA), and (more recently) Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa in the United States. Some greetings are more prevalent than others, depending on the cultural and religious status of any given area.

Typically, a greeting consists of the word "Happy" followed by the holiday, such as "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy New Year", although the phrase "Merry Christmas" is a notable exception. When one wishes to convey a greeting to another regardless of which particular holiday the other may personally observe, the collective phrase "Happy Holidays" is often used as a simple way to refer to all of the winter holidays, or to the three major American holidays of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. However, some controversy has aroused regarding the phrase "Happy Holidays" as an alleged attempt to diminish Christmas.

Merry/Happy Christmas - The greetings and farewells "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Christmas" are traditionally used in North America, the United Kingdom, and Ireland beginning a few weeks prior to the Christmas holiday on December 25 of every year. "Merry" dominates in the United States; "happy" in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The phrase is often proffered when it is known that the receiver is a Christian or celebrates Christmas. In the beginning of the 21st century, as Christians in increasingly multi-cultural societies continue becoming more sensitive to and respectful of non-Christians and non-Christian faiths, the phrase has become somewhat less ubiquitous than it was in the 20th century. (However, the commercialization of the actual holiday continues unabated.) The nonreligious sometimes use the greeting as well, however in this case its meaning focuses more on the secular aspects of Christmas, rather than the Nativity of Jesus.

As of 2005, this greeting still remains popular among countries with large Christian populations, including, among others, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and Mexico. It also remains popular in non-Christian areas such as the People's Republic of China and Japan, where Christmas is still widely celebrated due to Western influences. Though it has somewhat decreased in popularity in the United States and Canada over the past decades, polls from 2005 indicate that it is more popular than "Happy Holidays" or other alternatives.

History of the phrase - "Merry", derived from the Old English myrige, originally meant merely "pleasant" rather than joyous or jolly (as in the phrase "merry month of May").

Though Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century AD, the first known usage of any Christmastime greeting, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" (thus incorporating two greetings) was in an informal letter written by an English admiral in 1699. The same phrase appeared in the first Christmas card, produced in England in 1843, and in the popular secular carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

The then relatively new term "Merry Christmas" figured prominently in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in 1843. The cynical Ebenezer Scrooge rudely deflects the friendly greeting and broods on the foolishness of those who utter it. "If I could work my will", says Scrooge, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding." After the Spirits of Christmas effect his transformation, he is able to heartily exchange the wish with all he meets. The continued popularity of A Christmas Carol and the Victorian era Christmas traditions it typifies have led some to credit Dickens with popularizing, or even originating, the phrase "Merry Christmas".

The alternative "Happy Christmas" gained wide usage in the late 19th century, and is still common in the United Kingdom and Ireland. One reason may be the alternative meaning, still current there, of "merry" as "tipsy" or "drunk". Queen Elizabeth II is said to prefer "Happy Christmas" for this reason. In American poet Clement Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (1823), the final line, originally written as "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night", has been changed in many editions to "Merry Christmas to all", perhaps indicating the relative popularity of the phrases in the United States.

Happy Holidays - "Happy Holidays" is a seasonal greeting common in the United States and Canada, and is typically used during the holiday season. "Holiday" is derived from Middle English holidai meaning "holy day". It is used as an inclusive greeting during the holiday season around Christmas to those who do not celebrate it, but instead other winter holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

In the United States, it can have several variations and meanings: As "Happy Holiday", an English translation of the Hebrew Hag Sameach greeting on Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot. As "Happy Holiday", a substitution for "Merry Christmas". As "Happy Holidays", a collective and inclusive wish for the period encompassing Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter solstice, Christmas and the New Year.

In the United States, "Happy Holidays" (along with the similarly generalized "Season's Greetings") has become the common greeting in the public sphere within the past decade, such as department stores, public schools and greeting cards.

Advocates of the phrase view it as an inclusive and inoffensive phrase that does not give precedence to one religion or occasion. Critics view it as an insipid alternative to "Merry Christmas", and view it as diminishing the role of Christianity in Christmas, or part of an alleged secular "War on Christmas". Others consider the controversy to be itself hysterical.

A popular commercial variant is depicted in Honda ads that air during the holiday season. The automaker uses the slogan "Happy Honda Days", as wordplay on the phrase.

"Happy Holiday" is also the name of a popular song by Irving Berlin.

Season's Greetings - "Season's Greetings" is a greeting more commonly used as a motto on winter season greeting cards than as a spoken phrase. In addition to "Merry Christmas", Victorian Christmas cards bore a variety of salutations, including "Compliments of the Season" and "Christmas Greetings." By the late 19th century, "With the Season's Greetings" or simply "The Season's Greetings" began appearing. By the 1920s it had been shortened to "Season's Greetings, and has been a greeting card fixture ever since. Several White House Christmas cards, including President Eisenhower's 1955 card, have featured the phrase.

Some people believe that the "Season" in "Season's Greetings" is referring to the Christmas season. Due to this some people consider replacing "Merry Christmas" with "Season's Greetings" as an attack on their religion. Others say that it is pandering to a plurality of consumers by businesses so that they will make more money by hopefully not offending anyone by saying "Merry Christmas". Similar controversy has surrounded use of the phrase "Happy Holidays".

A differing opinion states that this saying is much more neutral and avoids elevating any one "holy" day over another. It may even be used to be more inclusive of other winter holidays (such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah), or to acknowledge the possibility that the sayer does not believe in anything holy, including "holy-days".

Technically speaking, "Season's Greetings" could apply throughout the year, as each season has its own particular set of accepted behavior and greetings.

Wikipedia, free encyclopedia

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