The Krampus Kalendar: V is for a VERY Merry Christmas

Sunday 22 December 2019

The word ‘merry’ now has all sorts of connotations connected with it to do with being slightly intoxicated, but how did the seasonal salutation come to be in the first place? And for how long have Christmases been merry?

‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’ was the verse that Sir Henry Cole chose to put on his first commercially available Christmas card in 1843, although the phrase was already in use almost 300 hundred years before that, appearing as it does in The Hereford Municipal Manuscript of 1565:

And thus I comytt you to god, who send you a mery Christmas & many.

The word ‘merry’ has its origins in the Old English word myrige, meaning ‘pleasing’ or ‘delightful’. By the sixteenth century there were a number of phrases in everyday use that included the word – ‘make merry’ (circa 1300), ‘Merry England’ (circa 1400) and ‘the merry month of May’ (1560s) – in which it meant ‘pleasant’ or ‘agreeable’. However, by the nineteenth century it had taken on its more familiar meaning of ‘jovial and outgoing’.

Another familiar Christmas usage of the word ‘merry’ is in the English carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’, first published in William Sandys’ Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern in 1833. The carol probably existed as a folk-song long before it was written down, and the phrase ‘rest you merry’ appears in The Dictionary of syr Thomas Eliot knyght, of 1538:

Aye, bee thou gladde: or joyfull, as the vulgare people saie Reste you mery.

'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas is available to buy now, and I'm pleased to say that 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas has funded on Kickstarter.


To find out more about the festive season and its many traditions, order your copy of the Chrismologist's Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts today!

The book is also available in the United States as Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Christmas.



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God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!

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