Author: Phillip Fusco
In a world that takes so much for granted, in times of change and challenge, it’s sometimes helpful and important to really understand why we say and do certain things; because without them, sometimes things would just not be the same.
So, what does ‘Merry Christmas’ actually mean?
Well, while it is normally said as two words, to fully understand what this worthy and much-loved universal phrase is actually saying we need to break it down into its three original parts and delve into the meaning and history of each word: Merry, Christ and Mas.
Merry is the current spelling of the Middle English word ‘merie’, and Old English word ‘merige’ (which originally came from old German), and simply means pleasant or delightful.
Christ is the English version of the Greek term ‘Christos’ which literally means ‘anointed.’ Anointing was an ancient ritual in which someone was honoured by pouring oil over them, often before being sent out to do a task. In this context ‘Christos’ is like a title, in the same way as ‘Prince’ is. Conveying that Jesus was anointed by God and sent into the world on a mission; as part of this anointing the Son of God became known and referred to as ‘Christos’ Jesus, or Jesus ‘the Christ’, or as more commonly referred to today as Jesus Christ. Here the anointing and birth purpose are seen as one and inseparable.
Mas is a simplification of the Middle English ‘masse’ or Old English word ‘maesse’, which refers to a festival or celebration. Used also as ‘Mass’ in religious ceremonies of remembrance.
So, the modern day ‘Christmas’ is a festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s not necessarily meant to claim December as Jesus’s birth date as such; it’s just the date and time of the year chosen for the celebration of the birth (and mission) of Jesus Christ.
So ‘Merry Christmas’ is an encouraging phrase that expresses and extends a hope, that the recipient will have a delightful and joyous time at the festival (Christmas season), remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and for the work he has done: yesterday, today and forever!
Merry Christmas to you all!