Sunday, 25 December 2011
It's as perfectly round as three pairs of sleigh bells.
And where's it come from?
As in 888 what?
In a word, years. 888 years.
And in another word, the word itself: Christmas.
Christmas, the word, put in its very first appearance in English 888 years ago - in 1123.
In English. Well, Old English actually.
Here it is, that first time, that first glimpse.
Her on Þisum geare to Xpes mæssan heold se cyng Heanrig his hired on Westmynstre.
Translation anyone? "In this year at Christmas the king Henry held his court at Westminster."
And I wouldn't be too troubled if I were you by that X in Xpes (akin of course to Xmas). The X is the Greek letter for Chi, the first letter of course in the word (or name if you prefer) Christ.
So: 1123. 888 years ago. Christmas. Westminster. The King and his court.
And at no little risk of belabouring the obvious, 888 years down the pike all of them - in one form or another - are still very much with us!
But do we have anything else? Anything tangible, anything straight from back then as if 1123 was, well, yesterday?
Boy, do we ever!*
Behold, St. Bartholomew's the Great, the old church over Smithfield way. A good chunk of it is Norman. Indeed, it's the second finest example of Norman architecture in London (the Tower of course takes the Gold).
And the year? You got it: 1123.
A year to remember. Indeed celebrate. The year the word Christmas enters the language and London gets its finest Norman church.
*It's a London thing - symmetries with this sort of muzzle-loading velocity.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS – SEE YOU IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE LATER TODAY (AT 11.00AM & 2.00PM) FOR THE SPECIAL CHRISTMAS DAY LONDON WALKS!