Why do we say “Merry Christmas”?

Why do we say “merry Christmas”? Why not “happy Christmas”? And why don’t we use the word “merry” for anything else nowadays (except for the occasional merry-go-round)? “Merry Christmas” is so ingrained in our language, and feels so natural to say, that you probably never stopped to wonder why. Well, I did, and with the help of linguist Arika Okrent, we’ll get to the bottom of it.

Thanks to Charlyn Lewis in Pennsylvania for sharing a Christmas memory in this episode. If you’d like to be on the show, record a voice memo into your phone and send it to christmaspastpodcast at gmail dot com or leave a voice mail on my Google Voice line at  650-394-7162.

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Music from this episode

  • “Gaena” — Blue Dot Sessions, via Free Music Archive
  • “March” — Kai Engel, via Free Music Archive
  • “Delicant” — Podington Bear, via Free Music Archive
  • “Suppose it Is” — Podington Bear, via Free Music Archive
  • “Wish Background” — Kevin MacLeod, via Incompetech