Xmas is an abbreviation used for Christmas that comes with debate and controversy. It is often viewed as a secular term for the holidays, promoting materialism and threatening the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas comes from the words Christ and Mass, so by removing Christ with the X, does it remove Christ from Christmas? Is Xmas the secularization of Christmas? The stance taken in defense of the use of Xmas is that it does not aim to remove religious connotations from Christmas, but actually includes the name of Christ through an old Greek writing system. However, many Christians stand firm that Christ should remain the focal point of the holiday and believe that with each use of Xmas we move one step closer to society turning Christmas into a non-religious holiday.
Xmas was popularized as a secular term in a movement during the 1980’s and 1990’s to remove Christ from Christmas. The movement eventually failed due to X having been the Greek letter used for Christ, stopping the movement from continuing on. The controversy still continues, as the term Xmas continues to be perceived as secular by many groups.
Xmas in Literature
The term Xmas dates back to the 16th century. While it is included in many style guides, including the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, Xmas is not a formal term for Christmas. Despite this, it has been used by scholars and writers alike, such as Christian poet Lord Byron and Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary states that the term is used mainly in advertisements, which has not helped separate it from the belief that it is a secular word.
Xmas as Pagan
Many pastors and preachers assert it is a pagan word and encourage their clergy not to use it. They see Xmas as a blasphemy against Christ and Christianity, while some pastors, like Dennis Bratcher, state that Xmas “is not a modern invention” and that “its origins is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church.”
X from Chi Rho Meaning ‘Christ’
Long before the term Xmas was used, however, the name of Christ was written as “Xp” or “Xt.” The Chi Rho, or Christogram, is the combination of the Greek letters X (Ch) and p (R) and are used as ancient abbreviations for the name of Christ. The Chi Rho is still used to represent Christ in many Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian churches to this day. As early as 1485, X was used for Christ and Xtian as another word for Christian. Christmas, to these Greek educated Englishmen, then became Xmas.
The Chi Rho in Architecture
The Chi Rho was also used in all walks of life to imply that something is “good.” It is often found in architecture and art from its time period. The Chi Rho, also called the labarum, was an early symbol of Christianity and goodness that still remains with Xmas to this day.
The same writing system has filtered down to jewelers and florists alike. Many use “xtal” to stand for crystal and “xant” for chrysanthemum. Proper names like Christopher can be written as Xtopher and Christina as Xtina using Greek lettering.
As the holiday season approaches, share this information with friends and family members. Xmas is not part of a war on Christmas but offers a unique teaching opportunity for keeping Christ in Christmas.
Today the controversy continues, as some faith groups are offended by the movement to replace Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays. Does Happy Holidays also constitute the secularization of the season, or does it simply allow well-wishes that include all of the celebrations of the season?