"Merry Christmas"

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"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.

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"