Why do we say ‘Merry’ in Merry Christmas? Is it about the gifts, the Christmas Tree or simply caring for each other and connecting authentically.

I have no idea why we say Merry in Merry Christmas instead of Happy or Blessed or any adjective other than Merry, so  I googled as one does to find out the answer. It seems we owe this phrase to a few people. A Catholic Bishop in the 1500s by the name of John Fisher; a Christmas Carol written in the 16th century; the first Christmas card sent in 1843 by Henry Cole and Charles Dickens in a Christmas Carol also published in 1843.  However, nothing definitive as to why we use the word ‘’Merry’’!   Some countries do use happy, but Merry is the most remembered phrase. https://www.allthingschristmas.com/history-of-christmas/history-phrase-merry-christmas/


The “Merry” and Christmas sparks certain of my senses; smells of cinnamon and spice; pine needles and turkeys in the oven with delicious mince pies baking (not in my oven). The picture of snow-capped villages with fine ladies walking in flowing gowns topped with white fur muffs and bonnets. Streets decorated with sparkling lights and shop windows dusted in snow. Toys for precious children scattered in shop windows capturing a forgotten essence of time standing still.  


My South African Christmas is experienced in the heat of summer days eating cold meats and salads while kids play in the swimming pool. This somehow, does not conjure up that same magic of Merry Christmas previously mentioned and what I was exposed to on Christmas cards and books I read as a child.

Being a South African child, Christmas has it’s own merriness. Not taking away the excitement of a  morning with presents under the Christmas tree and the idea that  Father Christmas visited the night before. The added Christmas Carols and decorations in the stores, also bringing Christmas alive.  The joy of waiting for the postman to deliver Christmas cards – which my mom would string up as part of the decorations.    Decorating the tree with tinsel and our carefully packed paper concertina Christmas decorations as precious as silver or gold holding a treasured place in my heart.

My dad would order a glazed ham; my mom would cook a chicken, roast lamb and tongue. These would be enjoyed with mountains of different salads and my dad would have little bowls of sweets, nuts and biltong. This was my Christmas delight.


As the years progressed; however, the tinsel faded and the paper decorations tore, and the magic of Christmas started to lose its luster.  Why?  What was missing from this magical time for me?  I discovered that somehow, I really wanted a deeper meaning to Christmas.  Deep in my heart, I knew that Christmas was far more profound than presents and a Christmas tree. 

They say Christmas time is a time for giving, it is not in the receiving: is that what makes it merry.  I do not envisage people getting drunk and singing drunken songs as merry, nor did we have Christmas Caroler’s knocking at our door singing Christmas Carols.  Sigh,  I think that would make it very merry indeed.


As a mom, I started enjoying Christmas through the eyes of my children. The joy each gift brought to them,  their excitement and anticipation of trying to stay awake waiting for Father Christmas to arrive.  Christmas started to become ‘merry again’, and I decided to capture that special magic for my children.  Was it about the gifts then?

My first overseas trip with my children reminded me that it was not about gifts at all. We saved every cent to be able to afford the trip and that became our Christmas present to each other and the children said it was the best Christmas ever.  We did not give out one Christmas present that year.


 I knew, that being brought up in a Christian home, celebrating Christmas was because of the birth of Christ and so I wanted to incorporate more of that. I wanted Christmas to reflect on Christ’s birth, the purpose of why He came and the blessings we share because of what He ultimately did for us.  The ‘merry’ness of the shepherd’s excitement and the three wise men who arrived at the very spot of Christ’s birth in a manger is remarkable. Were Mary and Joseph as surprised at these odd visitors coming unannounced as we were hearing this familiar story being told each year?


So on pondering these thoughts over the years now that my children are adults my restlessness returned once again. I started thinking about the importance of what a Merry Christmas meant to me and I realised that no matter what gifts I received, it would ultimately  not be what the gift cost; nor what the gift was; but how much meaning was behind the gift offered. 

 What did the person see in me that prompted them to feel they wanted to bless me with a gift over Christmas, keeping the Christmas story in mind? How did I want to bless them?  The gifts that the three wise men brought; Gold, representing a king; Myrrh – as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God.  As a child, these gifts seem very strange, but they do have a deep meaning behind them.https://www.crossway.org/articles/why-were-gold-incense-and-myrrh-appropriate-gifts-for-jesus/

How could I represent the giving as a symbol of my thanksgiving of the birth of Christ and understanding the  deeper love towards  people as a way of being Christ to others.  


So how have I brought the ‘Merry’ back into my Christmas.  Firstly by  responding to those people who have been there for me through that year. Our lives are so busy, and we get caught up in our business, so what better time to show others a little appreciation during this time of relaxation, peace and goodwill to all mankind.   I want to thank the people who put up with my moans and groans or who shared in my joys.  Secondly I want to connect with those loved ones, especially if I have not seen them in awhile and remind them how important they are to me, hoping they are aware that they are valued and I am grateful that they are in my life, and lastly to be Christ’s blessing to others.


Being with people who care about me over the festive season makes me see the ‘merry’ in Christmas. As the shepherds and the wise men traveled great distances to offer their connection, so it is with people, we want to be connected, show our love and care and gratitude even if it is the mere fact that we made it through another year. 

I used to send out Christmas cards to all the people that I cared about and I used to love these special times.  It was an emotional time for me as I wanted them to know how grateful I was for their friendship and love.


And so now that we are in the blogging era for my blog this year  I would love  to say a deep thank you to all those people who wrote on my blog. To those whom felt I had helped in some small way; to those that commented on Facebook and encouraged me.  This is my way of saying a BIG thank you to all of you for making me feel valued and heard.  Life is so much more meaningful when we care for one another and so my gift to you is for you to know that I appreciate each and  every one of you and am deeply honoured to have you as part of my life journey. http://lovinglylivelife.com/2019/07/26/why-we-need-gratitude-and-how-to-grow-more/

I wish you all a truly “Merry” and blessed Christmas.  May you all receive a deeper meaning for your ‘Merry’ in a Merry Christmas, that you feel cared for, fulfilled and enjoy a healthy and prosperous New Year. I especially wish we also remember the nativity scene and feel the mystery and understand the birth of Christ in our lives.

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