“Merry as a cricket” (John Heywood).
JUST AS “MIRTH” SUGGESTS LIGHTHEARTEDNESS AND EASY LAUGHTER, “MERRIMENT” SUGGESTS SOCIABILITY AND FONDNESS FOR GOOD COMPANY. Merriment is usually a group activity. It’s true, we may speak of an individual being merry, as noted below, but typically, merriment is something people enjoy when they’re together. Indeed merriment can almost be defined as the enjoyment of togetherness. It’s the kind of cheerfulness that families and friends and comrades take such pleasure in at this season of the year, especially if they’re not able to see one another often at other times.
When people gather together, is it not a delight — a genuine joy — when the gathering is one of merriment? Not every meeting can be merry, of course; the purpose for some gatherings requires a more somber mood. But aren’t we thankful when a gathering is one where merriment is possible? Don’t we eagerly look forward to appointments and assemblies where merrymaking is on the agenda?
And even with regard to individual people, is it not a delight when we encounter someone who is merry? Too much of our time is taken up dealing with people who are surly and morose; it’s like a breath of fresh air to encounter those who, while having just as many problems as anyone else, choose to be merry. And can’t we see that those who encounter us would also prefer to deal with someone who is merry? Merriment is a gift we can give to those around us.
Although merriment is often serendipitous (we discover it unexpectedly while we’re looking for something else), it’s also a good thing that we set aside certain times for it and let that be the primary thing we’re looking for. We don’t need to apologize for the fact that we mark special spaces on the calendar and reserve them for merriment. There’d be little merriment in our lives if we didn’t arrange for it.
And so our traditional greeting at this time of year is wonderfully appropriate: Merry Christmas! It is wise and it is good that we designate these days to indulge our deep-down fondness for good company.
Heap on more wood! — the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
(Sir Walter Scott)