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Christmas Mysteries
My understanding had always been that the British were more likely to say "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Christmas", but that it was the other way around in the States, and that under American influence the H word was gaining currency here too. However, an Ngram of British written usage suggests that Merry is not only maintaining but increasing its ascendancy, at least in published sources:

Screenshot 2015-11-07 14.32.34

More than that, Merry is even more dominant in the States, and always has been.

Screenshot 2015-11-07 14.32.21

So there you go. Live and learn.

However, now I'm intrigued by the 20-year decline in American festive greetings from the early '40s to the early '60s - an era I think of as the epitome of the chestnuts-on-an-open-fire, ultra-wholesome American Christmas, with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Stewart, 34th St and all. Yet the number of Christmas greetings (at least in print) more or less halved in that period. Perhaps the association between Christmas trees and the Red Flag brought the festival under suspicion with the McCarthyites?
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I'd never heard "Happy Christmas" in my life until I started hanging around with Irish-from-Ireland. I always thought "merry" was American and "happy" British and Irish.

Well, it looks like you were largely right! (And I was wrong...) I suspect I was misled by "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", that rather wassail-y West Country carol.

(no subject) - kalimac, 2015-11-07 04:45 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I've just accidentally replied to this on DW! But if two replies are permissable: I think the n-gram only surveys published books - and people reporting (fictional,mostly?) greetings in books might be being ironic, as in "it was far from a merry Christmas that year". Or were editions of A Christmas Carol suddenly bumping up the numbers?

Oh yes, it's a very rough-and-ready picture. One would need to factor in quite a few considerations before using Ngram as a serious research tool - but it's a very cool one, all the same!

(no subject) - heliopausa, 2015-11-08 12:47 am (UTC)(Expand)
I first heard "Happy Christmas" in England. Never in the US. Here in New York we always said "Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah" and also "Happy New Year." "Merry" here always feels like a Christmasy word: "Merry gentlemen," as we heard the carol.

It was a long time before I realised there was a significant comma between the 'merry' and the 'gentlemen'! But yes, taking my cue from that song I always attempted to shift gracefully from merriness to happiness as the last week of December wore on. By Epiphany I was positively beatific.

(no subject) - steepholm, 2015-11-07 04:43 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - nightspore, 2015-11-07 04:48 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2015-11-07 05:01 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Perhaps the association between Christmas trees and the Red Flag brought the festival under suspicion with the McCarthyites?

If you mean that the tune of "The Red Flag" is the same as that of "O Christmas Tree," I can say a definitive no. There's probably not one American in ten thousand who has any idea what the tune of "The Red Flag" is, even if they've ever heard of the song at all. It certainly surprised the heck out of me.

Probably about as surprised as I was to hear Americans singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" to the tune of the British national anthem!

(no subject) - kalimac, 2015-11-07 04:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I always assumed "Happy Christmas" was British because of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono song. Maybe it's actually Japanese?

I would also agree with kalimac that "America" is really, really popular in American elementary schools. Actually, given the difficulties of singing the national anthem, I would say that "America" and "America the Beautiful" were more popular than "The Star-Spangled Banner." Probably "This Land is Your Land" was too.

Well, as you can see, Merry has always been more popular in the UK too, but of course it's less noticeable if that's what you're used to.

Why is the SSB 'difficult'?

(no subject) - kalimac, 2015-11-08 03:45 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - aryky, 2015-11-08 07:03 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ashkitty, 2015-11-08 01:11 pm (UTC)(Expand)
We would never, ever have sung "This Land is Your Land" as the patriotic song of the day in my schooldays. That was in the 60s, which was still too close to the McCarthy era, and Guthrie was considered unAmerican.

(no subject) - aryky, 2015-11-08 07:05 am (UTC)(Expand)
Yeah, I have only EVER heard 'happy Christmas' in America from people who were trying to sound British.

Well, this is all news to me!

(no subject) - ashkitty, 2015-11-08 01:15 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - heleninwales, 2015-11-08 02:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalypso_v, 2015-11-08 06:11 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - aryky, 2015-11-09 03:41 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - heleninwales, 2015-11-09 08:24 am (UTC)(Expand)
I seem to recall one of my older brothers trying to convince me that Brits not only said "Happy Christmas" (which seemed most unnatural), but also "Merry Birthday." But I may have made this up. I don't think he fooled me (if it really happened), because I knew about "Many happy returns" from Winnie-the-Pooh.

'Many happy returns' is a whole new can of worms...

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