The War of Words behind ‘Happy Holidays’

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tags: Christmas, war on Christmas

Much like “Merry Christmas,” it turns out that “Happy Holidays” also has religious roots. Both are derived from Old English: Christmas comes from “Cristes Maesse,” or the Mass of Christ, the first usage of which (in 1038) described the mass held to commemorate Christ’s birth. As for “holiday,” the word emerged in the 1500s as a replacement of the earlier medieval word “haliday,” which itself had supplanted the Old English “haligdæg,” meaning holy day.

Recently, an investigation into the history of the phrase “Happy Holidays” as a seasonal greeting in the United States by self-described history nerd Jeremy Aldrich turned up its usage as early as 1863, in the Philadelphia Inquirer. By the middle of the 20th century, the phrase was well established in popular usage, as shown in a study of ads run by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in Carolina Magazine from 1935 to 1942 to encourage giving the gift of tobacco.

A 1937 ad proclaimed: “A gift of Camels says, ‘Happy Holidays and Happy Smoking!’” Other ads from the 1930s and early 1940s stuck to “Season’s Greetings,” but all featured jolly, grinning Santa Clauses, reindeer, Christmas trees and other recognizable Christmas symbols.

Read entire article at History channel

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