Wednesday, December 23, 2009

WNW: Christmas Edition

There's a little Christmas word myth I'd like to set to rest.

As a teen, I thought "Xmas" was a cute way to shorten "Christmas" (and it definitely took less time to write out!).

But then someone pointed out a horrifying concept: by using such shorthand, I was crossing Christ out of Christmas! Henceforth, I felt guilty anytime I used it. Anytime I saw "Xmas," I cringed.

There were times that writing out the whole thing was tedious, however, such as on a big plastic storage tub for the basement with tree ornaments. But I couldn't get myself to use it. So I'd compromise and use "Cmas." At least that started with Christ's first initial . . .

Turns out that all my worries were for naught. The term "Xmas" is very religious and very much keeps Christ in Christmas.

It goes back to the fact that the Greek word for Christ begins with the Greek letter Chi, which looks like, yep, the Roman letter X.

The Early English adopted that X as a symbol for Christ, so you'd see them everywhere denoting the Savior of the world: in symbols from religious art to carvings in church buildings and on documents and more. Sometimes the X all by itself was used as the name for Christ in writing.

Many early Christians (commonly known as Xians) considered the X to be further significant because not only was it the first letter of Christ's name in Greek, but it looked like the cross.

So literally, Xmas meant Christ's mass. It wasn't a shorthand for anything. When Christians centuries ago saw that word, they thought of Christ. They literally saw a symbol of his death in the cross. They didn't see it as keeping Him out of Christmas at all, but putting Him right in the middle of it.

I hope all of you have Merry Christmases and that Christ is the center of them, however you decide to spell the holiday.


Cluttered Brain said...

yeah, my hubby just taught me that the other day..I never knew that...:)
Merry Christmas!!!

Erin said...

Hmmm, thanks for the lesson. Next time my six year old son tries to chew me out for writing Xmas, I will tell him it's okay!

Kristina P. said...

Yep! The only reason I know this is from a message board I belong to.

Merry XMas, Annette!

* said...

Thanks for the explanation. My mission president explained to us once that we were never to use the term "Xmas," as it meant we were crossing Christ out of Christmas.

But I'm such a short-hand writer, I've lapsed in recent years into using "Xmas" again, much to my private horror.

Now, I will feel guilt no more!

PS: Merry Christmas!

Mary Gray said...

What a great lesson! Thanks for sharing. :)

Amanda said...

I agree, it is a nice lesson! However, I still cannot bring myself to use Xmas. Crossing Christ out of Christmas has been ingrained in me since childhood. But this will help me to not be upset at others when I them doing it :)

Merry Christmas to you and your family, may Heavenly Father bless you all during this very special time of year and may your home be filled with the spirit of Christ.

Susan said...

I always thought I was a sinner for using Xmas too. Thanks for clarifying and releasing all my guilt.

Amber Lynae said...

I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. I was unaware of the history of the chi. It is nice to know that Xmas is the sames meaning as Christmas. Because Christ is who the holiday is all about.

Karlene said...

I heard that as a teen too, and used Cmas, as you did. When I later discovered it was wrong, I still stuck with Cmas because I think it's visually prettier than Xmas.

Either way, He's the reason...

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

X really does mark the spot.

I'm glad you shared this. It's something I've felt guilty about for years. Aside from that, as long as I know Christ is always in my heart, it won't matter how I spell "Christmas" because He knows--and I know.

Merry Christmas, Annette!

Carina said...

As you can imagine, having a father who knows his Hebrew, his Greek, and all of that Ancient Near Eastern Studies jazz, meant I was gently re-taught soon after a 5th grade classmate's mother shared with us the "horror" of Xmas.

And ever since, I've rolled my eyes at the poor, ignorant souls who bristle at Xmas. We children of professors shoulder such a heavy load. ;)

Happy Xmas, my dear friend!

b. said...

Thank you for teaching me today! What a fun XMas lesson. And a wonderful release from the cringing!

Merry Christmas!

Chas Hathaway said...

That's way cool! I used to hate the use of Xmas, too. But now I think it's kind of cool!


Amanda D said...

I never knew this either but my husband was told this at church a week or two ago and he shared with me. I had no idea.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I heard the same thing about spelling Christmas as Xmas and it had a lasting impression on me. However, like you, I, too, have amended my ways when someone pointed out that the "X" stands for the cross He was crucified on. I like your explanation even better :) !!

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas and a good start to your new year!


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