Yes, this is the moment every year where I have to share my reminder about how to make your last name plural on your Christmas cards (hint: no apostrophe—please, no apostrophe!), but that’s not the end of our holiday punctuation conversation.
Forget the question of whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Is it “Season’s Greetings” or “Seasons Greetings”? Should we just return all those holiday card apostrophes like that awkward office Secret Santa present that joyously came with a gift receipt?
Maybe this is tricky, but there’s no reason for overthinking this one. If you’re wishing someone greetings of the season, you’re wishing “season’s greetings.” The apostrophe is correct. It’s possessive.
The exact origin of “season’s greetings” is unclear, going perhaps as far back as the 1500s according to some sources, but it’s been used commonly at least since the mid-1800s. And the waves of confusion over this expression’s apostrophe have returned time and time again, peaking between 1907 and 1926, again in the 1940s, and then pretty consistently since 1977. Personally, I’m curious about the moment in 1926 and in 1949 that brought the population back to clarity on this issue, and how can we repeat that?
Sure, I have lots of missions this time of year. They range from teaching everyone to be as educated about nausea as the Grinch to questioning the word choice and punctuation of your favorite holiday songs (Are we “tolling” or “trolling” those Yuletime carols? Is Rudolph really the most famous reindeer of all? Where does the comma go in “God bless you merry gentlemen“?).
We don’t need to wait until New Year’s Resolutions—ooh, look another possessive comma!—to get our communications right.
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