Merry Xmas!

After reading Wayne’s recent posts of Christmas-related topics, it occurred to me that it might be good to clarify the expression Merry Xmas. I sometimes hear people complain that the X in Xmas takes Christ out of Christmas. Actually, the X has long been an abbreviation of Christ since it represents the first Greek letter of Хριστος and resembles its form more closely than “ch” does. It might be more evident if Christ were commonly written as Xrist, or Xmas were written as Chmas.

3 thoughts on “Merry Xmas!

  1. Molly says:

    I had to laugh when I first learned this, as growing up, I was taught that Xmas was a pagan way to “take Christ out” of Christmas. Too funny to learn the truth (in light of our hyper-sensitivity to being attacked by our “evil” culture, at least those of us in the fundamentalist world)–lol.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    I had to laugh when I first learned this, as growing up, I was taught that Xmas was a pagan way to “take Christ out” of Christmas.

    Well, I think for many people who do not know the history of usage of X as an abbreviation for xristos, the “x” may service that function that you were taught. I was taught the same thing you were. Of course, our teachers didn’t live very far apart, eh?!

    If we did a survey of people who use the spelling “Xmas,” it would be interesting to find out how many simply viewed “X” as an abbreviation– perhaps to make Christmas sound less Christian and less offensive to people of other religions–and how many used the “X” as it was originally used, to abbreviate the Greek word for Christ.

    My wife and I are happy to put up a Christmas tree each year. We never think of the fact that the Christmas tree originated as pagan symbol from northern Europe. The pagan meaning has been totally lost for us. But it is important for some people and I respect them for not wanting to do something which they consider pagan.

    Sounds like the old question of whether or not to eat meat which has been offered to idols, eh?

  3. John Fraiser says:

    I think the most you can say about the history of Xmas from the evidence you’ve presented is that Xmas doesn’t have to used to take “Christ” out of Christmas. To reach the conclusion that Xmas was set forth as an abbreviation of “Christos” you have to show that historically this was the intention in using Xmas. You have to show the development. Otherwise your conclusion sounds just as dogmatic and as uncertain as anyone who would say that Xmas was a deliberate attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Was Xmas any more the creation of people who new Koine Greek than it was people who wanted Christ out of Christmas? Without further evidence both conclusions sound unfounded. Even if these are the only possible conclusions, to argue for one over the other still requires proof. And saying that because X can stand for Christos does not tell us that this is how Xmas came about.

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