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A Four-Letter Word…

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.

So, to a chorus of resounding groans…

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.

Goodwill to all men.  Especially those whose presence in the grey world beyond our doors has been forgotten; who are forced to confront their memories alone. To those who are cold, to those in pain.

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.

Be festive.

Buy some holly, or something.

Thank You

Dear Earthly People

(Do you know I’m never confident of the correct form of address.  John, a mate of mine, likes ‘Earthlings’, but I think that is impolite, somehow)

Thank you very much for your good wishes on my birthday.  They are misplaced, since this is not my birthday, but you’ve been doing it for two thousand years and I feel that even though I was only with you for thirty of them you deserve some sort of credit.

Just a couple of things…

Please do not send any more requests.  In case you don’t really understand this, I am dead.  I can’t answer them.  You may think I do, but really?

Not me, so much, this one, it’s Dad.  Dad is getting seriously upset.

(By ‘Dad’ of course I mean HF, not the Greek guy; he left the scene when mother started chasing him for maintenance.)

Anyway, here’s the thing: it was alright when you started buying each other presents, if a little difficult to understand because I’m the one supposed to be having the birthday, and nobody sends me anything, you know?  You used to, but it seems to have gone out of fashion.

So, presents – okay; just lately, a little too much.  I mean, Black Friday, what’s that??    Remember how uptight we both used to get about merchants and usurers turning our place into a den of thieves?  That’s sort of what you’re doing.  A bit disrespectful, is all I’m saying.  Even that doesn’t get Dad going, you know how patient He is:  what absolutely sets Him boiling is plastic.   PLASTIC!

Everything seems to be made of the stuff.  If it isn’t made from it, it is wrapped in it, or boxed in it.  Dad worked hard to create some perfectly adequate water for you to drink, and you even bottle that in PLASTIC!  It’s a problem all year, but never so much as now and never so much as on my ‘birthday’.

He says I have to remind you recycling doesn’t begin and end with eBay.  All those toys and gifts given in my name end up as microbeads, and they choke up all His other children.  He says to warn you He has other kids to consider, and if you keep messing up His creations the way you are He will give someone else a turn.

So, there you go.  Mags and I send you our best for another year.  Not to worry about all the broken promises, we didn’t believe them anyhow.

Yours ever,

J.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Writer’s Rant at Christmas

It’s come around again.

Somehow, every year, the media dredge up new perspectives at Christmas, incurring my admiration because  I confess freely I cannot.  Christmas confounds me.  Miraculous survivals, acts of goodness and extraordinary achievements are being reported on every side.  Why do I miss them all?  Why do I not know where every royal person is spending their festive season – and why do I not care?

Frankly, I don’t know why any aspect of Christmas should be news.  After all, it begins unfailingly around 1st November, and swoops in like a great dark cloud, gushing forth episode after episode of trauma to finally collapse like a half-set jelly on December 25th.  Equally routinely, we are to be found sweeping up its victims in the cold dawn of Boxing Day, amidst the pitiful groans of the suffering, a secondary feast of medicaments and salves, and ladles brimming with schadenfreude.

So what’s new?

With my Bah-Humbug specs planted firmly on my nose, I am going to issue you with an invitation you will rarely get:  how do you really feel about Christmas?   I am going to ask you for an extraordinary degree of honesty; for truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Where are you reading this?

Are you at the airport?  Have you been there for more than five hours because your plane is late,  your cabin crew are on strike, or there is a bomb scare?

Are you on the motorway?  Have you been stuck in traffic for more than five hours, missing your plane because it was the only one today that departed on time?

Honestly, what is it like being marooned in that changing cubicle at John Lewis, convinced that if you try to step outside the mob will kill you?

On a register of one to ten, how joyful do you feel about spending eight hours of Monday in the close company of Uncle Freddy after he has stuffed himself to the gills with turkey and drunk enough whisky to sink the Nimitz?  Do you really want to hear that song again?

How do you describe the complexity of your feelings, watching the educational toy which cost you a hundred pounds (give or take a penny) being systematically ignored by its recipients in favour of the cardboard box in which it arrived?

“He’ll grow into it.” His mother assures you.

Is there a moment more memorable than that in which ‘our youngest’ falls on top of the laptop you bought for ‘our eldest’?  It will stay with you, will that crunching sound – a memory to carry to your grave.  The family rows, the burnt mince pies, the drinks you never normally touch and certainly shouldn’t, the vomiting dogs and the panicking cats – with so much living to pack into twenty-four hours; no wonder Christmas’s popularity endures.  We humans are naturally masochistic, after all.

Cynical?  Me?  Hah!  I confess it.  I love watching others engorge themselves in Bacchanalian feasting, while I consume my allowance of boiled fowl and steamed broccoli, and I may even have a sip of wine or two, whether or not I am forced to go and lie down afterwards.   While the young whirl and screech about me, I will take my ease watching Julie Andrews doing her own whirling and screeching on top of that damned hill and I won’t be envious – no, I will not!

I suspect though, like most of you, I will be glad when the day is over, and I am able to wash up, wipe up, clear up, sober up, and go exhausted to my bed (or whatever appalling equivalent has been reserved for me).

All right, I will acknowledge that it is not all doom and gloom, this Christmas thing.  There are experiences not to be missed, pleasures to be found.  Yet how fresh and crisp the dawn of the twenty-sixth, the promise of another year!  How sweetly the robin, his voice no longer drowned by one hundred and forty decibels of Black Sabbath, sings!  And how freely the EBayers bid for that educational toy, in the year’s only real sale!

Happy Christmas, everyone!