News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

January 4, 2011

MS. TAKES: Wishing you all a happy … whatever

TERRE HAUTE — I was brooding over a not-so-hot book the other night and wondered why we say some of the things we do.

Why do we wish people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year? Isn’t this getting it a bit backward? After all, new year celebrations are generally considerably more merry than Christmas which is, in my experience, a family affair and therefore a happy occasion. I guess it’s hard to fight tradition and you would get some strange looks if you wished folks a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year. I am tempted to experiment.

And, I wonder, is the wish for a Happy New Year only for that one day, or is it a general wish for the year ahead?

We do wish each other a Happy Easter and even a Happy Halloween. We conjure up visions of some sort of gigantic rabbit hopping around dispensing chocolate eggs. It’s a giggle and, I suppose, happy. But Halloween brings the nightmares of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. That doesn’t sound like unbridled happiness to me.

Happy birthday goes without saying. It’s a personal holiday and should be happy. My childhood birthdays were wonderful. I got to pick the dinner menu, invariably creamed chicken on Mom’s biscuits. Presents were a happy extra, but most important was feeling special on my birthday.

I wonder why we don’t have wishes for happy or merry or anything else for the Fourth of July or Labor Day? We are allowed to feel pensive on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I don’t suppose there is much cause for sheer joy on either day, but a bit of somber reflection never hurt anybody.

I’ve wondered about “good morning.” There are mornings that are gray and stormy with a wind chill in the single digits. What’s good about that? Good night makes more sense. It is, after all, a wish that sleep will be deep and untroubled, and if your good night works maybe good morning is a valid wish the next day.

I had a friend who resented being told to “have a nice day.” It never bothered me, but she insisted that it was HER day and she would have whatever kind of day she wanted.

Ah well. Too late to wish you anything but a merry new year — and a happy one, too.

Liz Ciancone is a retired

Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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