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Merry Christmas, Happy Christmas or Nollaig Shona? Whats Your View?

'Merry' Christmas ?

(Or: In Ireland is the day after Christmas Day called Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day?)

Surely ‘Merry Christmas’ is primarily an Anglo-American and not a traditional Irish greeting. In the traditional Gaeilge greeting ‘Nollaig Shona’, ‘sona’ translates as ‘happy’, not as ‘merry’.

Hiberno-English: 'Merry' in Hiberno-English, has traditionally meant 'intoxicated' or 'slightly intoxicated', rather than 'joyous' or 'happy' (the latter being its meaning in Anglo-American culture and some popular song). In fact, a large and expensive, ‘Merry Christmas’ was quickly taken down from the terminal building Dublin Airport many years ago. (Of course Dublin Airport Authority always displays a variety of traditional, Hiberno-English and indeed bilingual salutations). A 2012 AA radio ad was also immediately changed, because of complaint about ‘Merry Christmas’ and its drink-driving contradictions for the AA!

Quite apart from alcohol connotations, we are also rich in our traditional & Hiberno-English, salutations:

"Happy Christmas"

"Holy Christmas"

"Season's Greetings"

"Compliments of the Season"

"Beannachtaí na Nollag"

"Nollaig Shona" and more.

Of course, when we play other nations songs, we are enjoying and celebrating their art form and their diversity. However, when we excessively adopt their daily speech, to displace the richness of our own Hiberno-English, are we not offending our own diversity? As a related example, do we not generally still refer to the day after Christmas day as St. Stephen’s Day and not as Boxing Day (though a surprising minority of Irish people also increasingly use the latter, while few Irish appear to know the derivation of the term ‘Boxing’ day?).

I do not of course suggest that the use of ‘Merry Christmas’ intends other than a goodwill greeting. Neither is the use of 'Merry Christmas' in Ireland exceptionally rare. There has been a general growth in UK/US/Globalised English into Ireland in, say: non-Irish ‘Christmassy’ greeting-card scenes; in tabloids and in 'TV language’.

Research: My belief as to the inappropriateness of 'Merry' is supported by simple ‘research’ examples:

1) An examination of any typical 100 Christmas cards received, where designed/printed in Ireland, will reveal that those carrying the salutation 'Merry', rather than a traditional greeting, are a very small minority.

2) An examination of my local provincial newspapers in the weeks before Christmas will reveal that, out of every 100 local Elected Representatives, who greet their constituents, a very large majority will use a traditional or bi-lingual salutation. (Either use may be an unconscious one for many but the majority choice is noteworthy?)

3) The large Irish Drinks Industry Group, national-newspaper advertisements of recent years say:

'Let’s Eat, Drink and be Merry Responsible’ (i.e. ‘Merry’ struck out and ‘Responsible’ inserted, in a large Drinks Industry Group safe-driving graphic). Again, is not this our traditional Hiberno-English usage of ‘Merry’?

Bilingual signage/graphics generally.

Many culturally sensitive entities employ bilingual greetings or have legally express or implied obligations to do so. Many customers hardly notice and/or are not impacted upon (good or bad) by bilingual signage. But a substantial group is delighted with the cultural sensitivity of such bilingualism. Many are complimented that Tesco or Waterstones (British PLCs!) recognise that we are and seek to remain, enriched by our diversity.

Surely visitors from all cultures are interested in, admire us for and visit us to experience, our diversity not our sameness? From a marketing point of view, it seems self-evident that if one keeps doing something which - notwithstanding that some may be indifferent - delights many and costs virtually nothing, one makes progress! Recent-years Bórd Fáilte surveys linked a temporary disproportionate drop in British visitor numbers, to a perception that Ireland was increasingly insufficiently different, in cultural and heritage terms, from Britain! Perhaps 2010 UNESCO designation of Dublin, as 4th World City of English Literature, should be reviewed?

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