Mary’s Holiday Traditions, Part I: ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Merry Christmas’

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean 11
I like that lil’ snowman. Photo: Nevit Dilmen via Wikipedia.


It’s the first day of December, y’all. I’m fairly sure that means it’s the holidays.

The holidays mean different things to different people. Some folks take ’em, some leave ’em. Some of the folks who take ’em take ’em real far; some folks who leave ’em get super grumpy about it and “Humbug!” their way through the entire deal. The grinches aren’t much fun to be around, but they have their reasons. The holidays can be hard. For so many of us, the holiday season is soaked in memories — many of them triggered by seasonal smells and sounds — that feel particularly intense. Those feelings have something to do with childhood; they’ve got something to do with time. I get it.

When I turned the page of calendar at my desk this morning, after I got over the shock of seeing the end of 2017, I decided to very intentionally ask myself how I felt about the holidays at this point in my life. Guess what?

I like ’em!

Yeah, I really like the holidays. There are specific reasons for this and I thought I’d share them in a series of posts here on the ol’ PG. It’ll get me in the holiday spirit and besides: Socrates famously said “the unexamined life is not worth living” and Socrates sure looked a lot like Santa. Ever think about that?

Tradition No. 1:
Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ to Absolutely Everyone I Encounter

I wonder if anyone has ever studied how many times in a year the average person says “Have a great day,” “Take care,” or any of the dozens of variations on such phrases. I’m sure the number is in the thousands: Consider that if you use one of these sayings even just twice a day, that’s almost 800 times in one year. But if you work with the public — especially in retail, customer service, or food service — you say it way more. Beyond that, most of us are (rightly) programmed to use, even rely upon, standard-issue human decency when someone hands us our change or our bag of groceries. “Have a good one” is just what you say when you interact with someone in the public square, unless they step on your foot. (If you’re me, you might say it then, too.)

Now, I’m a big, fat, word nerd, so maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s huge that there’s something else we can say to each other 1.5 months out of the year!

Getting to say “Happy Holidays!” to my fellow townspeople as I come and go from shops and cafes and such is one of my favorite things in the world. I love to say it. For one thing, “Happy Holidays” is just stylistically a better choice, what with the H-H alliteration. It’s also v. chipper. Structurally, “Happy Holidays” is more economic at two words than “Have a nice day” is at four. It’s better writing, people. 

I love saying “Merry Christmas” every bit as much. It’s yet another economic, evocative alternative to “enjoy your day” or whatever. Besides, saying “Merry Christmas” to my brothers and sisters as we hustle and bustle through the city makes me feel like I’m a character in a Dickens novel, i.e., “A Christmas Carol.” (If only the weather were chillier, I could wear a muff!)

It’s okay if you don’t celebrate Christmas or if you don’t care about the holidays. Like I said, you surely have good reasons for it — and by the way, I have a big problem with the consumer frenzy stuff, believe me. There’s plenty to criticize about the holiday season in our culture, but trilling out a less-used salutation or farewell isn’t hurting anyone.

And it’s free!


11 Responses

  1. Pat Hicks
    | Reply

    I too love saying Happy Holidays, it is like adding sparkle to the day. Also if find. saying the words Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas have a feel good joyful lingering effect for me. I enjoy the day so much more.
    Mary hope you can take some time to relax and enjoy the holidays
    Merry Christmas !!

  2. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    Indeed! I like Happy Holidays because it takes care of most people–my Jewish friends, my Christian friends & my Atheist friends are mostly fine with it too!

  3. Kerry
    | Reply

    Christmas is more fun for little ones – more stressful for the older peeps. I must say I’m a Grinch for a while and I love Bah Humbugging! I think the reason for that is seeing things in July (!!! what?!!!!) when I go out with a friend for a meal and we see a decorated Christmas tree with presents in the restaurant to advertise bookings! Really!!! We looked at each other and said “how ridiculous!” It seems to be so commercial and getting earlier each year. So I ignore it until . . . I get the tree out and decorate the fireplace and ooooh the fairy lights and greenery up the stairs with cinnamon sticks and sliced oranges! Thennnnnnn this year, last Monday I went with 2 of my lovely neighbours to a farm shop with a garden centre, skating rink – ooh all sorts – and the Christmas section. I found, after 32 years of looking, a beautiful ballerina fairy for the tree. I’m not really an angel person, but the angel was looking a bit threadbare and was replaced with a rustic woven branch star. My folks had a fairy and when I was 3 they bought one from Woolworths (ahhh memories) in a box. On the way home I was peeking through the little round windows and was told to be careful with her and not to open the doors because she might fly away. Magic! But when I got married – nada. No fairies – not one! And this time I have 3! The fairy queen for the top and 2 tutu ballerinas for wherever. Now I’m excited! Oh boy am I excited! LOL! Bye bye bah humbug and now fun fun fun. Lots to look forward to – daughter and other half are entertaining us this year and hopefully my son will visit with his other half in the near future. I’m sewing gifts for them (although they will have those Christmas jumpers harrrrrr!) and that feels good rather than buy something for the sake of it. Apart from those Christmas jumpers – but then that’s the evil bit of me! So have a Happy, Merry Christmas Holiday, winter Solstice, Hanuka etc from me (and sorry if I left anyone out!) xxxxx

  4. JB
    | Reply

    Happy holidays to you and yours Mary!

  5. Elita @ Busy Needle Quilting
    | Reply

    And a “Joyeuses Fêtes” to you from Switzerland! 🙂

  6. Melinda Seegers
    | Reply

    I work for a Christmas company so we hear Christmas music 12 months a year. And working for a Christmas company, it is a super busy time of year. Extra hours working in the office gives me less time to do Christmas shopping, decorating my home and my favorite— baking cookies. Every year I try to get organized early to fit it all in, but life gets in the way and I end up scurrying around at the last minute. But I still love Christmas! And each caller I talk to gets a heartfelt “Merry Christmas “ at the end of their call. And restores my faith in humanity! Merry Christmas, Mary!

  7. Lindsey
    | Reply

    I’ve always loved the Christmas season. As i had children ( and energy) the holidays just got better and better. As my children got older I came to realize that Christmas was a pageant put on by, usually, the mother.. i realized I could cut back a bit and we would still enjoy the festivities. One year I had a major surgery 10 days before Christmas and discovered the peacefulness of relaxing with the tree lights on and quiet music while dozing in a blanket nest on the sofa. Now that I am much older I enjoy Christmas at our children’s homes. I no longer go all out with decorating. Some years I don’t even put up a large tree- just a small one as a nod to the season. I think the candles and fairy lights are the nicest part of this dark time of the year.
    My Bah Humbug time is when itis time to undecorate the tree and put it all away. Somehow nobody has ever wanted to help with that.
    Have a wonderful December. I hope there is joy and wonder in your life.

  8. Christine Houghton
    | Reply

    I am just starting to get into the “spirit” of the season. I bought a new snow flocked three foot tree with pinecones to remind me of Christmas in New England. I live in Florida now so its hard to celebrate the holidays with green grass and warm weather. It also helps that i am sewing and quilting Christmas gifts for my family. Love that Christmas/Holiday fabric. Cardinals and pine trees with snow are my favorite. Also lots of white twinkling lights all over the house and Christmas music playing in the background and a cup of hot chocolate in the evening in front of the fireplace. Mmmmm, memories, here and now. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you Mary and your family.

  9. Emilio
    | Reply

    Feliz Navidad a todos!

  10. Donna Johnston
    | Reply

    I so love the idea that it is just a special greeting that we get to use for 1.5 months of the year! Thanks for a fresh perspective on language.

  11. […] interrupt the trotting out of holiday traditions for a special announcement: My latest Quilt Scout column is up! And I really do need to let you […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *