Axing Xmas

In a time long gone by, the alphabet book from which we learnt our English letters displayed the letter A on the first page with apple pie written at the bottom of an illustration.

Axing Xmas

Ratna Raman

In a time long gone by, the alphabet book from which we learnt our English letters displayed the letter A on the first page with apple pie written at the bottom of an illustration. My grandfather who was teaching us said he had never eaten apple pie but assumed it was sweet and tasted like cake made with apples.  We went past a blue balloon, a curled up cat, a dog and an ear and several useful illustrations that allowed us to make connections between letters and objects, many of which we knew  very little of. The alphabet book introduced us to  each letter in  the upper and lower case. The capital (upper case) was  used for proper nouns, (names of  people and  places) while the lower case was for the ordinary noun (common noun).  We were intrigued by the letter ‘X.’   ‘X’  in upper case  announced ‘Xmas’ and on that page  beside a fir tree all decorated with ornaments stood a smiling Santa Claus.  Meanwhile  ‘x’ in lower case had the word xylophone and an illustrated picture of what looked like a colourful, oddly shaped keyboard with two sticks beside it.  We inferred that  the xylophone, a musical instrument, was  possibly part of  familiar Christmas festivities.
We were moved by the plight of Mary and Joseph. During the rains we celebrated the birth and flight of baby Krishna from the wrathful Kamsa who had brutally decimated every older sibling at birth. It was reassuring to know that an infant Christ, in colder climes, had also escaped from Herod’s clutches.  Both stories came around at different times of the year, reiterating the possibility of innocence, hope, love and transformation, in worlds predominated by evil and misgovernment.
Nobody explained what the ‘X’ in Xmas  stood for.  Nobody even seemed to wonder. Belatedly we learnt that Xmas was a part of the English language since the 16th century. The original user probably knew that the Greek word ‘chi’ was   represented by the letter ‘X’.   ‘Mas’ in Xmas is an abbreviation of the Latin word 'mass.'  Both abbreviations put together refer to the mass wherein Christians gathered together to celebrate the miraculous birth.  The publisher of the 20th century primer possibly “knew little Latin and even less Greek.”   We need to remember that Xmas is not a new age abbreviation and must always be enunciated as Christmas.
‘X’ files or the ‘X’ factors in celluloid and real lives remain  unknown mathematical quantity  eventually determined through strenuous effort.
Oddly, when someone is crossed off a list, the prefix ‘ex’ is used.   Of Latin and Greek origin, ‘ex’ indicates that a person no longer occupies previous status\position.  In the world of 'exes,' ministers, principals, students, teachers, employees, soldiers, husbands, wives and members are out of their former roles.  Ex-factory sales, refers to the sale of goods out of a factory. This is a good place to be in as ex-factory implies that goods will be sold at cost.
The homophone (differently spelt word with a similar sound) ‘axe’  is a weapon used to chop down all manner of things, literally and figuratively.
This brings us to an important formulation.  It is not a good idea to axe X-Mas celebrations by directing all activities to focus on discussions of good governance.  Such ex parte (Latin, one-party) decisions serve to excise ancient memories and reduce governance to mere tokenism.


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