Linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill verbally and visually explain why the word “merry” is used in conjunction with Christmas, when the word “happy” is used more often for holidays in the United States
There was Merry Christmas AND Happy Christmas. …Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries the independent use of “merry” went into decline, but stuck around in set phrases like “make merry,” “the more the merrier” and, of course “Merry Christmas.” People did say “Happy Christmas” during this time, but “Merry Christmas” was the phrase of choice in Dickens and in carols and other things that became part of the ideal 4image of Victorian Christmas. Because this was the era that came to define our Christmas customs, the pull of merry grew stronger, even changing the last line of “The Night Before Christmas” which originally went “A Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.” That started to not sound right, so we changed it. In America anyway.