Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas (or “Just for the Halibut”)


For some time the phrase “Happy Holidays” has been the politically correct alternative to the much more offensive Dickensian phrase of “Merry Christmas”. However, secularists beware! It appears that you have unwittingly fallen into a well-laid trap of Anglo-Saxon religiosity. . .

The trap lies in the origin of the word “Holiday”. Once upon a time, in the bygone days of the Anglo-Saxon language in England (around 950), the two words halig (holy) and dæg (day) were joined to create the word haligdæg, which was used to describe days of religious observances. The Anglo-Saxons were predominately Christian/Catholic at this point in history, so this would have referred specifically to Christian holy days. As the English language changed, the word evolved into haliday around the year 1200, and then into the more familiar ‘holiday’ somewhere around 1500.

Of course, in our 21st century world we also refer to non-religious days as holidays (Columbus Day and Super Bowl Sunday are my favorite examples). Still, at the heart of the word itself there remains the suggestion that we are celebrating something that is “holy”.

As for the halibut, what does that have to do with anything?

Well, the funny sounding name of this funny-looking fish is derived from the Middle English words hali, and the word butte, meaning flat (Yes, I just said butte. At least I didn’t say Djibouti). The fish received this name after it had become a popular dish on Catholic holidays.

Holy flat fish, Batman!

So go ahead and enjoy your holiday halibut, and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

Oh, and Season’s Greetings, of course.


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