Why are we only ‘merry’ at Christmas?

The passage of Christmas marks the end of two traditions people often forget.

First, the usage of the word “merry” drops off to practically zero until October of the next year.

I don’t why “merry” is so closely associated with Christmas and not any other occasion, but so it goes.

Merry is a perfectly fine adjective.

Sometimes I say Happy Christmas and Merry New Year just to confuse people.

It rarely confuses people because anyone I would bother to do that already knows I’m weird about language.

I was in a meeting for new teachers at one of the district offices earlier this month.

I asked one of the presenters why educators insist upon saying “share out” instead of simply “share.”

The verb “share” implies a transaction outside the self. “Share” is often paired with “out” when talking about apportioning land.

But a person shares with another or an audience, especially when it is a discussion of education policy.

Why do I care? I can’t say. I just notice patterns in language. They tend to come by unconscious repetition of groupthink that manufactures meaningless cliches such as “it is what is.”

Everything is what it is. Tell me about something that isn’t what it is or is what it isn’t. That’s interesting.

Corporations and governments shape the language people use in their spaces.

I hated it when editors at the Register would go off to a conference and come back with a new docket of babbles.

The paper once had a glad-handed, smiley editor who was more used car salesman than a journalist.

He loved the word “urgency.” I was a night police reporter. Everything I wrote was on deadline.

The only thing that could make me more urgent is if I was holding off going to the bathroom just so I could get a story filed in time for the copy desk to read it.

“Urgency” is the kind of talk used by the same corporate goons who call newspapers “properties.”

Avoid it if you have a soul.

My friend Paul recently shared an especially odious corporate filler.

When they want Paul to do something extra, they ask if he has the “capacity” for it.

Paul notes he is not an electric transformer sending current back and forth.

Nor is he a large cargo plane trying to squeeze on an extra load.

He’s an accountant. He has an almost unlimited capacity for spreadsheets.

At the Register, editors would ask what you had “on your plate.”

This always came in advance of them asking you to do something they needed to be done, probably urgently.

I wanted to respond, “I was just headed out to lunch” — even if it was 9:30 a.m., but I was never that clever at the moment.

Anyway, we don’t use “merry” enough.

I’m going to throw around Merry Presidents Day, but I don’t know if we are allowed to observe that one anymore.

The second thing the end of the Christmas season brings is closure on the brief period during which the specter of Santa Claus can be used as a disciplinary tool.

A parent will often scold a misbehaving child that Santa is watching, and such naughtiness will reduce the overall Christmas haul by three to five presents.

This type of threat only works from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24.

Nobody talks about Santa before Halloween except the human resources department at the mall which must hire the guy to sit in the chair and take pictures with germ-infested children bleating and squirming on his knee.

And once the presents have arrived, the gig is up.

Control of naughtiness defaults back to whatever medium previously employed by the parents or caregivers.

Santa is a lot trickier than I realized as a boy.

Some years back, a couple in a since-closed comic store talked about whether they would do the Santa myth with their child.

They worried that when the child eventually discovered Santa wasn’t real, the child would curse them as liars.

I suggested that that probably would not be the case. I was reared on the story of Santa and eventually figured out that the gifts, like everything else in the house, were courtesy of my parents.

I am not a consumer of the umpteen podcasts about murder, nor have watched a minute of the Netflix drama based on the life of cannibal murderer Jeffery Dahmer.

Nonetheless, I can’t think of any serious serial killer in history whose psychological profile showed he broke bad the moment he learned Santa wasn’t real.

Maybe this is why “merry” is reserved for Christmas. People need the extra mirth to stop taking everything so seriously.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney is a Marion County Express columnist.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.


  1. Tw Hess says:

    “This type of threat only works from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24.”

    It would be interesting to see a graph of this phenomenon over a year. Maybe with next year’s posting.



  2. P Beckerdite says:

    I also “hear“ all those new words and phrases and am equally disparaging of them. They really get on my nerves. The only good thing about them is they will soon be replaced with some newer phrases.


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