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On the very first Christmas card it was written as "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..." http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/christmas-card-sayings-and-phrases.html

In Wiktionary that same general phrase is "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Merry_Christmas_and_a_Happy_New_Year

A few quick searches in Google show that many people use it without any articles at all:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Does anyone have a source explaining if one of those phrases is more correct than others and if there's any difference implied by the number of articles used?

Edit just to make it more clear: I'm asking for the case when you design a Christmas card, for example, and you have to write the phrase on the card — not personally to anybody, but rather as an impersonally commercial message to the general audience.

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6  
No more than two. –  Peter Shor Nov 23 '11 at 13:41
    
@PeterShor: thwack, because that was too easy an opening. :-) –  Marthaª Nov 23 '11 at 14:36
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Is the "extra" article simply a result of getting the song lyrics to match the melody? –  JeffSahol Nov 23 '11 at 16:10
    
@Jeff ... I doubt that - they could've just made the a in "and" longer to match the rhythm –  Ican Zilb Nov 23 '11 at 17:31
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's a difference between a complete, grammatically-correct sentence and a greeting.

If I was writing a complete sentence, I would write "I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year." But if I was just greeting someone, I'd say, "Merry Christmas!", not "A Merry Christmas".

It's like when you write a title or a headline, you often leave out words, especially articles and versions of the verb "to be". A newspaper headline will say something like "Stock Market Up", not "The Stock Market is Up".

I suspect people write "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", i.e. no article on the first but including an article on the second, because they're starting out writing a headline type of construction but when they get to the middle it's getting kind of long and they put in the article as if it was a complete sentence through force of habit. I think it's inconsistent and I wouldn't do it. I'd generally write "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!", or maybe possibly "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."

Of course, in these politically-correct times, the correct greeting is "Happy Unspecified Holiday to you, unless the very idea of holidays offends you, in which case please pretend I said nothing and walked past you in silence".

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2  
well ... I'd say "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" is the one I've heard the most... what would you say is the correct one to put on a Christmas Card, or e-mail, etc. which you send to the general public, kind of not a whole sentence but impersonal greeting? –  Ican Zilb Nov 23 '11 at 15:13
    
@Ican: I haven't checked any statistics, but I think the most common thing to write on a Christmas card, etc, is "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year". –  Jay Nov 23 '11 at 19:07
    
+1 "There's a difference between a complete, grammatically-correct sentence and a greeting." That should be the complete, correct, necessary and sufficient answer. Everything else is off-topic on ELU. –  Kris Dec 25 '12 at 5:44
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Both seem fine. It is more of thing of conventions rather than rules.

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So if there isn't a rule, which is the convention? (you can have a look at the question - I added the specific case I'm asking about) –  Ican Zilb Nov 23 '11 at 15:10
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I don't think any of the solutions you posted are incorrect.

Generally sentences become more formal and elaborate, when you use more words. So despite all of your sentences being correct, the most formal one would, in my eyes be

"I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year".

Of course you can arbitrarily add more formality by making it longer:

"On this day, celebrated throughout the world as a day of peace, I wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a happy new year".

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protected by RegDwigнt Dec 11 '13 at 10:39

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