“Happy New Year” or “Happy New Year’s?”

As of January 1, the new year of 2020 is among us. A whole new decade to work on and make progress with. A whole new year to set goals. A time to reflect and refresh. Iit is a time where people celebrate the conclusion of one year and the beginning of another. But with this new year and this almost universal exclamation, how exactly do we say it?  

While spending my new year celebrations with friends, this topic came up and it had me thinking: what is the right way to wish someone a happy new year? The semantics really got to me. Is it “Happy New Year?” or is it “Happy New Year’s?” All over signage and decorations, both phrases can be seen. It’s natural to even use them interchangeably. More often than not, you won’t be corrected for using the wrong one, if there is a wrong one. 

So, during my thinking, I realized that they might actually have a different meaning and there might be a third phrase. The first phrase, “Happy New Year” refers only to the future and onward. It is almost an encouragement to not only celebrate what is to come or what is now here, but to forget about the past. In this instance, there is only one year being referenced, i.e. 2020.

With the second phrase, “Happy New Year’s,” it leads me to believe that the well-wisher is referring to the festivities of the first day of the year. This phrase implies the ownership of the New Year day, hence the festivities, and is really a more in-the-moment saying. I suppose when saying this phrase like this, there is more to the statement and the conversation surrounding the greeting. Possible thoughts are talks about New Year’s Eve – again the ownership of the day prior. Or discussions about New Year’s Day and how to ring it in just right. Both possibilities are reflective of the ownership that comes with the second phrase.

Now, I mentioned earlier that there may be a third phrase: “Happy New Years.” Absent of the apostrophe, even my word programming document is insisting I am grammatically incorrect. However, I qualify this because what if the well-wisher saying this third phrase is actually wishing you a wonderful conclusion to the year prior, i.e. 2019, and a great start to the next year, i.e. 2020? In this case, the third phrase is the correct one to use and is commonly heard.

Overall, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to say this holiday greeting. At the end of the day, pun intended, it simply depends on the intentions of the person making the statement, and of course, context. Neither of the three phrases are incorrect and all hold some positive attribute to each one. While semantics may be important, I would argue that it is more the thought behind the statement being made. Which, with us going into a new decade, any and all positivity is always a welcome thought.

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