The seasonal discussion of Happy Christmas vs. Merry Christmas has sprung up again on the American Dialect Society mailing list. The facts, in brief, are that Merry Christmas is now the standard greeting in the U.S. and is far from unknown in the U.K., though Happy Christmas has some history in the U.S. (in “A Visit from St. Nicholas” — “‘Twas the night before Christmas” — the jolly old elf wishes “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night”) and seems still to predominate in the U.K.
David Daniel has now offered this link to an enormously affecting performance, by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir, of “Happy Christmas (War is Over)“, in which Lennon sings “happy” — and the billboards have “happy” on them, as here:
John Lennon’s 70th birthday went by back in October (on the 9th) — he was just a bit younger than I am — and then his 30th deathday came up earlier this month (on the 8th), a moment of great sorrow for me. Back in 2003, while my man was dying, I wrote a poem (included in a posting here) on Yoko Ono’s 70th birthday that was in fact an act of mourning for John (“You damned / Earnest angry / Boy who / Sang for me”), a man who finally found delight and a kind of peace in his partnership with Yoko (they looked ridiculously happy together) and in caring for their son Sean, but then was murdered at the age of 40.
Death is with us. And war is very much not over. Here we weep.
But in an hour my little family will appear, we will exchange a very few presents (mostly for my grand-daughter), and then have our now-customary Christmas meal, dim sum lunch at a local Hong Kong restaurant, enjoying a happy Chinese-Jewish moment.