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!