Just a quick post for today, unsurprisingly about the meaning of the word Christmas. You can probably guess that it is of course a combination of the words Christ and Mass. It’s a shortening of Christ’s Mass, which makes sense as a name for the day, and was first recorded in the 11th century. Linguistically, there’s not much else interesting about it, as its meaning is so opaque. I suppose there’s the fact that we use on before special days (on Christmas Day), and at for longer periods of celebration (at Christmas). And there’s Xmas! Even though it’s often considered a blasphemous, secular, lazy contraction of the word, it actually has a religious background. The X comes from the Greek letter chi, which in English is Christ, so it’s basically identical to Christmas.
But yeah, Mass! I remember, like many an Irish child in the 80s and 90s, thinking about when I should get mass: would I get Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and enjoy the pleasure of waking up on Christmas morning knowing I didn’t have to get Mass, and could spend the day playing with my new toys.
I always tried to get Midnight Mass, but sometimes I was just far too comfortable at home on Christmas Eve, and I’d leave it for the morning, which I’d always regret, although Mass on Christmas Day was always okay, because everyone was in a good mood, and you knew the Gospel story would be a good one. Midnight Mass could be great though, it always seemed to have a really special atmosphere, which even the tipsy men fresh from the pub standing at the back seemed to appreciate. Even when I started to become less religious, I’d still sometimes enjoy Midnight Mass.
I only very occasionally find myself at Mass these days. It’s interesting how I still remember lots of the responses, and find myself automatically reciting them before I realise I have. Although no-one seems to remember when to kneel anymore, so it seems everyone just sits and stands.
So whether you’re going to Mass or not, or spending Christmas in any of the other infinite ways to spend it, (or not even celebrating Christmas, but still hopefully having a nice end-of-year), I hope you have a merry one!