In years gone by I have allowed myself to get in quite a tizzy when someone wrote on a card, “Merry Xmas”.
I grew up believing that this means that one is crossing out Christ or taking Christ out of Christmas. I’m sure you’ve heard that explanation a thousand times, but have you actually taken the time to dig into the history of the phrase?
My mom said something interesting when she was sharing her testimony at our ladies Bible study a couple of years ago. She had always cut the ends of the pot roast off before putting it in the pan, as did her mother and her mother’s mother. In wondering one day why they did this before cooking it, they asked. Her grandmother replied… because the roasts never fit in the pan. Over the years the pans got bigger and the roasts actually fit but something had become a tradition and they were doing it without even knowing why.
I let Xmas bother me, to permeate my belief system without even knowing why, it became a tradition to despise and even debate about.
Let me help you with a little history lesson.
By the 15th century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas.
Do you want to know why?
First of all, the Greek letter for Christ (Cristos) is very similar to the letter X (the monogram is an X with a sword like image through it) Χριστός, is Christ in Greek. A symbol that was used as early as the 4th century by Emperor Constantine.
Secondly, in the early part of the 1400’s, the printing press with moveable type was invented. In the early days this was all done by hand and was very tedious and very, very expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common.
In fact…the church began to use the abbreviation X for the word “Christ” to cut down on the cost of the production of books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and “Xmas” became an accepted way of printing “Christmas” (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity). Even Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.
So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church.
In fact, as with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation “Xmas” should be pronounced “Christmas” just as if the word were written out in full, rather than saying “exmas.”
Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during this time of year, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season.
Now that you are a little more informed… it seems a tad silly to get all up in arms about something so largely irrelevant and in fact something that we Christians began in the first place…
*I originally wrote this back in 2007 but it came to mind after seeing a ‘Boycott those who don’t stand for Christmas’ website on a popular Christian family website. Encouraging voting for stores who are “Christmas friendly” and boycotting those who are not. I will shop where I want to shop, not because they do or don’t say, “Merry Christmas” to me! To me, these types of conversations and sites make Christians look like… well… idiots. I don’t want to link the website, I don’t want any more undue attention to go there.
A friend of mine wrote into this site and I love what she wrote in response to this ridiculous “cause”, so I thought I’d share it with you: “I’m a manager at a Gap store. As a Christian I feel condemned by reading some of your comments. We’re allowed to say Merry Christmas. Please understand that Gap is a business not a church and we have Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and Christians who come into our store. I cannot assume everyone are Christians. The Sunday “church crowd” that comes in is so much more rude and mean than any other time of the week. Please use courtesy and know that you are a representation of Christ even when you shop. Please be nice, retail workers need Christ too!”
Do you have anything you’d like to add to this discussion?