A “humbug” is a person or thing that is thought of as deceptive or a fraud. The phrase “Bah! Humbug!,” made most popular by the character Ebenezer Scrooge the book and play A Christmas Carol, is used to refer to Christmas as a fraud.
No one is exactly sure of the origin of the word “humbug,” though there are a few possibilities. American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland theorized that the word could be derived from the Norse word hum, meaning ‘shadow,’ and the Biblical word bugges, meaning ‘apparition’. There is another theory that the word could be derived from the Italian phrase uomo bugiardo, meaning ‘lying man’. There was considerable Italian influence on England at the time.
Regardless of where the phrase came from, we hope that that the Scrooges of the world come around and stop calling the holiday season a humbug.