Charles Dickens is rightly credited with "inventing" many features of Christmas which are with us to this day. The abiding legacy of his rich and magical writings, now often conveyed to new generations via film and animation more than by his books, comes to mind also as we contemplate the upcoming new year.
Given the range of hard-edged economic challenges we are facing over the coming 12 months, it is hard to pass Dickens' opening to his 'Tale of Two Cities', published 160 years ago in serial form each month in 1859.
Dickens wrote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
It is tempting to go all gloomy in the fading winter light of 2018 and reflect we have lived through the best of years - and may be facing the worst times in 2019. But banish this eternal pessimism and look towards the lengthening days of the new year.
There are tough times coming - but the worst does not always happen. And even if something appalling does happen, we have the capacity to cope.
That's hardly irrepressible optimism. But it's the best I can muster for now.
Let's start with the bright side. We are entitled to take the Varadkar/Martin promise of some political stability, very probably right through 2019, at face value.
Granted, each has his own and his party's self-interested reasons for avoiding a general election in 2019. But when you look at the range of governments in disarray across the European Union right now, let's use a modicum of residual seasonal cheer and give them some credit.
We only have to look across the water at the continued dismaying mixture of rancour, hubris, and naked self-interest in the UK political system over the past few years. But the threats of political chaos are by no means confined to the UK.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron looks to be coming unstuck; Italy is teetering on the brink of economic crisis; Spain's minority government is juggling a series of regional disputes; Poland and Hungary have lunged to the right and are on a collision course with Brussels.
Let's just welcome the avoidance of an election while the later acts of the tragedy that is Brexit are played out. It is a good thing for the nation at large. All politicians and their supporters will focus on local council and European Parliament elections in late May.
These of themselves could influence the national picture and ring some bigger changes before the year is out. Ireland will be also looking outward at the new European Parliament, measuring an inevitable increase in far-right and far-left anti-EU support. Happily, such a development in this jurisdiction remains less likely.
Still staying positive, let's note that the year 2018 brought us a slew of economic data which was mostly upbeat. There was economic growth and job creation bringing things to near full employment.
Even five years previously, such indicators would have appeared improbable. The greater challenge now will be defending these positive indicators.
Clearly, more needs to be done on building affordable homes, which is key to making progress resolving the current housing crisis. And we are still pulling and dragging with some big issues in the health services. But we are, relatively speaking, living in good times - some in the best of times as equal distribution on economic gains remains an issue.
Still, the dangers of the economic threats pose the risk of us being on the cusp of really bad times. We know about Brexit which, after a welcome Christmas lull, will burst back into our lives with a British cabinet meeting this Wednesday.
The dreaded topic will be back full tilt in the Westminster parliament from the middle of January. It's hard to see some kind of vote by MPs on the unloved EU-UK draft Withdrawal Agreement being postponed again. It's even harder to see the deal getting the necessary endorsement by parliament.
We have time to ponder the upcoming crisis scenarios as they present themselves. For now we must note the Irish Government's continued job of ensuring no last-minute slippage on guarantees about "no hard border" - and the equally important need to step up Brexit preparations which are under Dublin's control.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has already many times said there will not be a mini-Budget in the coming spring to help cope with the real threat of a no-deal Brexit.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin thought quite the opposite. But we might only be talking details here. The point is that 2019 will really be all about managing the economy to mitigate the inevitable shocks of even a better-than-expected type of Brexit.
Now that neatly tees up the next issue: escalating public service pay demands. Here, the nurses have very much got their retaliation in first with strike action threatened.
Do not be surprised if this one escalates quickly and is played out in tandem with Brexit. The nurses' unions are arguing that they are pushed to the limit.
On the Government side, sheafs of statistics are being marshalled to argue there is a deal of exaggeration from the unions. It will be a rather gutsy struggle - and the nurses are not alone in the public sector groups seeking post-recession payback.
Then there is climate change - which can no longer be ignored. In fact were it not for the over-arching and darkening effect of Brexit, climate change would be the most talked issue of our times.
A "whole of government approach", with policy proposals due from every department, is due in February. The brunt of the effort will fall on the agriculture sector to which a third of carbon emissions are attributed.
Listen out for many farmers asking: "How can we 'go green' when we're 'in the red?'" Again this issue will turn on public sector expenditure in a time of big economic challenges.
There are many other threats too which have been identified by various public bodies in the final months of 2018. They include the threat of considerable international trade turbulence with US President Donald Trump stoking things up and compounding the Brexit fallout for Ireland's most open trading economy.
There is the continuing pressure on Ireland to concede more changes to its company tax regime and the often-pointed-out undue dependence on high-tech multinationals for job creation and tax revenue.
We could go on. But let's repeat: the worst does not always happen. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit might steady things.
Happy New Year!