...the then extremely rare “Happy Christmas” rather than “Merry Christmas”
--Response by MacDonald P. Jackson
"Happy Christmas" always sounded British to me, and even now makes me think of John and Yoko. The earliest examples below might have influenced any American anglophile. My favorite has to be Machiavel's--what, Irish drinking song?
happy Christmas, and a merry New Year, your Cellars full of Money, and your Pockets full of Beer....The regular choice of "happy" over "merry" in many texts by clergymen and other pious writers is neatly explained below, in the 1752 letter to his wife by John Newton (published in 1810). While still active in the African slave trade (twenty years before he composed the words to "Amazing Grace"), Newton distinguishes mirth and happiness, in his mind "two very different things." Our Anglican moralists seem to prefer "happy" over "merry" because for them, "merry" implies inebriation. A happy Christmas, as opposed to a merry one, means a sober Christmas. Clergymen and missionaries in particular do not want to encourage holiday drunkenness and debauchery, or anything like the carnival rites that Clement C. Moore (as brilliantly demonstrated by Stephen Nissenbaum in The Battle for Christmas) aimed to tame in "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Say now. Perhaps with Santa's parting "Happy Christmas to all," Moore the sturdy Episcopalian and inveterate moralizer has managed to slip a little didactic pill in with the sugar-plums, when we weren't looking.
Plenty more where these came from. Perhaps I will expand the inventory, further on up the road....
"I Send You this to express my hearty Wishes, That You may enjoy a Happy Christmass and New-Year." --George Wheeler, An account of the churches, or places of assembly, of the primitive Christians
MY wishes to your lad[yshi]p] and Community, are of a most happy Christmasse... I present you with The voice of Truth, the Angel of peace who giving himself unto us, gave us the first happy Christ-masse.... --F. G., The voyce of truth or The high way leading to true peace composed in Latine by M.G. and translated into Inglish by F.G.1679
Durham Dec. 23 1679.1684
"... wishing you a happy Christmas and new yeare...."
--Reverend Denis Grenville, archbishop of York to John Locke via Electronic Enlightenment Scholarly Edition of Correspondence.
"it hath been no holy nor happy Christmass, if it hath not prevailed with us to resolve to be better men...." --Denis Grenville, The compleat conformist, or, Seasonable advice concerning strict conformity1687
Merry song fit to be sung at Christmas. The Tune, Oh Mother Roger.
1693Now, now this happy Christmas Season,
I present you with Delight;
[...]nce it is no more than Reason,
For to pass away each Night....--Chaucer, Junior - Canterbury Tales
"O the happy Christmas this will prove to us, in case we can but resolve to practice Humility and Charity!" --La Mothe, Two discourses concerning the divinity of Our Saviour1707
"I wish you a happy Christmas and New Year."1712
--Mrs. Frances Shaftoe's Narrative
26th. I was to wish the duke of Ormond a happy Christmas, and give half a crown to his porter. It will cost me a dozen half crowns among such fellows. --Letters, written by Jonathan Swift1749
"Please permit me to wish all your senatorical Rank, happy Christmas, and a merry New Year, your Cellars full of Money, and your Pockets full of Beer a l' Irelandoite." --Machiavel's Letter to the Lords and CommonsJanuary 3, 1750
"Most people would think it too late, to wish you a happy Christmas." --Original Letters of the Rev. James Hervey; also in Herveiana (London, 1823)1771
I hope you have had a happy Christmas at Leeds. We have kept holidays here indeed. --Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, M. A. Vol. 2 (London, 1771)1799
"To conclude: Do your duty to God and men; enjoy the company of your friends and neighbors; eat and drink with strict temperance and sobriety; and then you will not fail to have, what I heartily wish you, a COMFORTABLE AND AN HAPPY CHRISTMAS." --Admonitions for Sunday-Schools (London, 1799)1800
"[we] are coming down to the vicarage to keep the Christmas:--and a happy Christmas 'tis likely to be for honest folks: as for they that are not honest, it is not for them to expect to be happy, at Christmas or any other time." --Maria Edgeworth, The Parent's Assistant 3rd edition (London, 1800)1807
An Advent spent in a devout and penitential manner, cannot fail of conducting thee to a happy Christmas. --Richard Challoner, Meditations or Considerations upon Christian Truths and Duties1808
"One happy Christmas laid upon the shelf " --Poem "A Chapter on Logic." Collected in The Spirit of the Public Journals for 1808; and frequently reprinted, for example in the Philadelphia Mirror of Taste and Dramatic Censor, May 1, 1810; and the Cortland Village Museum, October 9, 18201809
"... we were looking forward to a happy Christmas time last December, when one of them said, ' Will anybody think of the little sick children at the Union ?' "--Emma Sheppard, Sunshine in the Workhouse1810
I wish you, my dear friend, a very happy Christmas; may the blessed Jesus himself "bring you good tidings of great joy!" --George Russell, Letters, Essays and Poems on Religious Subjects
"I NOW sit down to wish you a happy Christmas; a merry one, is a frequent phrase, but that falls far short of my desire. For I have often found mirth and happiness to be two very different things... --Works of the Rev. John Newton1811
Here, and in the neighbouring villages, I spent my Christmas, and a happy Christmas too. --"Mode of celebrating Christmas in Yorkshire" in The Gentleman's Magazine
"After spending a very happy Christmas with his family, he set off again for Charlestown [South Carolina], where he arrived January 3, 1741; and on the 16th, went on board for England. --Memoirs of the Life and Character of the Late Rev. George Whitefield
Saturday 25, we had a happy Christmas-day. --Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine1813
"I wish you both a happy christmas, and that your holidays, may be days of the Son of man...."--Gleanings of the Vintage1815
a drunkard who, to the great joy of his wife and family, is reformed, having learned how much his temporal comfort is improved by his new habits, consoles himself by anticipating the superior happiness he shall enjoy this Christmas, compared to the riot and intoxication of the last festival season.... this will be the best way of enjoying a happy Christmas. --Thomas Pole, A History of the Origin and Progress of Adult Schools
"You have now, my dear children," continued he, "enjoyed a merry and a happy Christmas, have you not?" --The Welcome Visitor, or, The Good Uncle1821
NEW YORK, 26 Decembr, 18211822
A Happy Christmas to our dearest daughter, her good husband and large family of children, was the health drunk yesterday by your parents and Sister at their tranquil board. . . . --Letters from John Pintard to His Daughter, Volume 2
Never did I spend a more happy Christmas. --Missionary Register, January 1, 1822
"Christmas. To us this has been a happy Christmas, by the arrival of letters from America...." --Religious Intelligencer, July 6, 1822
"... here I found a letter from home, wishing me a happy Christmas." --Thomas Rees, A Journal of Voyages and Travels1823
"I hope you have spent a happy Christmas." --Christian Repository, January 31, 18231824
"We have celebrated a very happy Christmas and entrance into the New Year." --Hans Peter Hallbeck, United Brethren's Missionary Intelligencer, 4th Qtr 1824
"We return the compliment of a happy Christmas to the writer." --London Courier and Evening Gazette, December 27, 18241825
"Wishing our numerous friends, a cheerful and happy Christmas...." --The Lady's Monthly Museum
... wishing our fair readers, from our hearts, a very merry and happy Christmas, with the simplicity which always accompanies truth. --New York Mirror, December 24, 18251826
CHRISTMAS BOX DAY. / The Watchmen's Petition
Thus, whether Male or Female, Old or Young,
Or Wed or Single, be this burden sung:
Long may you live to hear, and we to call,
"A Happy Christmas, and New Year to all!"--Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, December 26, 1826
"It will be a happy Christmas for me, if I learn to think more about Jesus Christ..." --The Child's Companion or Sunday Scholar's Reward, December 1, 18261827
"We exclaim'd, "O, tell me, is it
Long to happy CHRISTMAS-DAY? --Christmas and the New Year (London, 1827)
The Holidays.--The season of presents, cakes, and hilarity, has arrived again, and we issue this number in the very midst of it. The throngs of happy children that we encounter in the streets, whose little smiling faces look almost blue with the cold, but whom wind and weather cannot restrain from sallying out, to spend their holiday finances in the nearest toyshop; the greeting of "a happy Christmas to you," that salutes our ears, into whatever house we step, and for saying which the urchins expect a return--but not in kind; and the peculiar nature of the amusements and sports around the evening fireside, where a sort of moral sunshine diffuses itself, bright in proportion to the bleak and disagreeable state of external nature, all are but so many evidences of the undecaying spirit with which this festival spirit of the year is still observed.1828
--The New York Mirror, December 29, 1827
The season is near at hand, when the silver voices of the merry and gay-hearted little urchins will be heard in the usual greeting "a happy Christmas to you!" and what a delightful sensation it must afford a benevolent heart thus addressed, to return the salutation with a Christmas Box, or a Casket, such as we have just been rifling for the entertainment of our readers. --The Critic, December 13, 18281829
"A HAPPY Christmas and a merry new year!" How many million times will this good natured salutation be interchanged, wherever the English language is spoken….1829?
--New York Mirror, December 26, 1829
A NEW CAROL TO THE TUNE OF "God rest ye, Merry Gentlemen."1830
Now may the ruler of this house,
These great glad tidings know;
And many a happy Christmas
May he have here below;
And to his friends and kindred,
The Saviour's mercy show;
Glad tidings of comfort and joy. --Broadside printed in London by A. Applegate and E. Cowper; in 1810-1840 Radical Politics and the Working Man in England Set 41. British Library.
"And wishing Happy Christmas all, beg leave to make my bow, Sir.1832
Bow, wow, &c."
--"Marvellous Times / A Christmas Carol for the year 1830"; in the Chester Chronicle and Cheshire and North Wales General Advertiser, December 31, 1830.
"A happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all our Readers! "
--Bury and Norwich Post, December 26, 1832