Xmas is a four-letter word. In my etymology it ranks alongside a small and select number of other words of similar length, one or two of which begin with ‘F’.
In reality, of course, the letter ‘X’ represents the Greek letter ‘Chi’, the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, ‘Khristos’. In the Greek it looks like this: Χριστός. The ‘mas’ bit is from the Latin word ‘missa’ for sending away – think of the same family of words as ‘message’ or, in archaic, ‘missive’. It attached itself to Khristos and became ‘Cristes-messe’ in Old English, which sort of aligns it with my existing stock of four-letter words, most of which, incidentally, also have origins in Old English.
What do I wish for us all? The glowing image of a Dickensian Christmas, with plumply merry celebrants swaddled in greatcoats, bearing lanterns and singing carols in the snow?
A warm log fire and a tall glistering tree surrounded by happy children, their amassed wrappings strewn about them and their faces lit with surprise and joy?
A rich table of succulence and abundance besieged by celebrants sharing fellowship, love and honest laughter?
Cards and gentle humour, or earnest chess with one person dear to us in the sunset of a favoured room?
None of these. I wish us all safe passage through a strait beset by dangerous currents. I wish us forbearance as our children quarrel, patience with the visitor whose knock drags us from our favourite film to engage in conversation, charity, even, for those whose homes we share and wish it were otherwise.
To you, and to you all, I give my Christmas wishes. May you find harbour beyond the passage to another year with your loves untested and your friendships intact.
Have the merriest Christmas possible, is all I ask.
Buy some holly, or something.