It’s nearing the end of the year again, and that means a unique set of grammar challenges: Christmas cards.
Sure, they could be Hanukkah cards, or Kwanzaa cards, or Eid Mubarak cards, or New Year’s cards, or just simply holiday cards. Heck, they could even be “happy December” cards for all I care. Good grammar is still good grammar, and I think we can all agree it’s already political enough as it is. I mean, I’m still getting passionate letters about my British versus American punctuation rules column. (I wish.)
If you’re anything like my mother, your holiday cards went out weeks ago, were probably handmade and included a wonderful, personalized message for each recipient. If you’re anything like me, you’ve just realized Christmas is a week away. Guess it’s time to resort to holiday e-mails …
So, here’s the question: Do you wish your friends “season’s greetings,” or “seasons greetings?” After all, the greetings don’t really belong to the season, right?
Our dear friend Microsoft Word will point you toward “season’s greetings,” and it will be correct. I’m confident you’re dying to know why, though. Here we see the genitive case, which is used when a noun modifies another noun. As we said before, the greetings don’t belong to the season; they belong to you as you give them out. However, the greetings are undeniably “of” the season, so to speak. There are no season’s greetings without the season in question. The genitive case allows us to show this quasi-possessive relationship, and my mom gets a nice opening line for her Christmas cards.
Staying in the holiday spirit, once you’ve gotten past your opening “merry Christmas” or “happy New Year,” should you capitalize those phrases in the middle of a sentence? For example, would you write, “We all wish you a Merry Christmas!” It’s tempting, I know. So often we see those phrases used as standalone sentences with both words capitalized. But “merry,” “happy,” “joyous,” whatever adjective you want to place before the holiday, they’re all just that: simple adjectives. Thus, we write, “Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.”
And, in case you don’t read my ink again before 2013, please do have a pleasant trip into the New Year and a wonderful time celebrating whichever holidays you choose. Personally, I try to hit them all – as long as the food is good.