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Question time: Why do we say „Merry Christmas“?

Warum wird in englischsprachigen Ländern eigentlich das Wort „merry“ in Zusammenhang mit Weihnachten verwendet? Unsere Redakteurin ist der Sache auf die Spur gegangen! Lesen Sie hier einen vollständigen Auszug aus der Read On über die Herkunft des Ausdrucks „Merry Christmas“.

Why do we say „Merry Christmas“?

By Siobhan Bruns

Happy New Year, happy birthday, happy Easter, merry Christmas. Normally, English speakers put the word „happy“ before a birthday or holiday to show they wish someone joy on the day. But for Christmas, „merry“ is often used.

Linguists and historians aren’t exactly sure why English speakers use merry with Christmas. But they do know that it isnt’t new: in 1534, Bishop John Fisher wished Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell a merry Christmas in a letter he wrote to him.

But we probably say it today because the Victorians used it. The Victorians started a lot of our current Christmas traditions, like Christmas trees. In Charles Dickens‘ 1843 book „A Christmas Carol“, merry Christmas appears 21 times. That same year the phrase also appeared on the first commercially-sold Christmas card. Christmas cards were also started by the Victorians.

Funnily enough, although the expression began its life in Great Britain, they often also say happy Christmas in England. This may be because of the Queen. In her annual Christmas broadcasts, she always wishes her subjects a „happy Christmas“.

Rumor has it that the Queen prefers the word happy to merry because the word merry can also mean slightly drunk. For example: „There was plenty of wine at the party last night, you got a bit merry, didn’t you?“ The idea behind this rumour is that wishing someone a merry Christmas may encourage him or her to drink too much. And that is something Her Majesty wouldn’t dream of doing.


0—2 merry fröhlich — joy Freude — linguist Sprachwissenschaftler(in) — historian Historiker(in) — chief minister Erster Minister

3—4 current heutig — christmas carol Weihnachtslied — phrase Ausdruck — to appear auftreten; h.: verwendet werden — era Ära — funnily enough lustigerweise — expression Ausdruck — annual jährlich — broadcast Sendung — subject Untertan(in)

5 rumour has it Gerüchten zufolge — slightly ein wenig — plenty of viel — to encourage s.o. to do s.th. jdn. dazu verleiten, etw. zu tun (to e. ermutigen) — majesty Majestät


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