December 10, 2021 Eric Gawura

What's the Deal with Xmas? Is it Wrong to use it instead of Christmas?

What's the Deal with Xmas? Is it Wrong to use it instead of Christmas?

There are a lot of people who think that the word Xmas is part of the secular world’s “War on Christmas.” They see “Christ” in “Christmas” marked out with an “X” and conclude that secular forces are trying to “X-out” Christ from Christmas. But hold on a second. Things aren’t always as they at first appear.

In the Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written, the word for Christ is spelled Χριστός, with the first letter “Chi” essentially the same as our English letter “X.” The letter X has been used, then, in English as an abbreviation for the full word “Christ” going back to at least 1021 (found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).

The authoritative Oxford English Dictionary and its Supplement cite the usage of “X-“ or “Xp-“ for “Christ” as early as the year 1485 (and the term “Xtian” as shorthand for “Christian” from 1634). In a time before computers or typewriters, it was apparently easier on the hand to write Xmas instead of the whole word when you were going to be writing it out a lot.

So Xmas is nothing more than a way to abbreviate the word “Christ” in Christmas. There’s nothing sacreligious about it.

Still, it is true that there is a wider attempt by some in our society to obscure the true meaning of Christmas and to downplay the essentially religious and Christian nature of the holiday. They do so by playing up the supposed “pagan origins” of Christmas (see here for a good refutation and by pushing the use of “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas.” Certainly in a multicultural society like America, where many different religions celebrate holidays at the close of December, “Happy Holidays” is generally more respectful of other traditions, but “Merry Christmas” is absolutely a better Christian witness to the reason for the season of CHRISTmas!