Does Xmas take Christ Out of Christmas?

This post may contain affiliate links from which I will earn a commission. Learn more in our disclosure.

The Xmas vs Christmas Debate.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the whole controversy about whether or not it’s a bad thing to use the abbreviation “Xmas” instead of writing Christmas. In recent years, it’s become more of an issue with all of the culture wars going on.

Well, recently the Xmas debate came to my inbox as it related to a newsletter that I sent out.

What is the Meaning of Xmas? Does it really take the Christ out of Christmas? Find out where the term Xmas came from here.
Want to Save This Post?

Enter your email & I'll send it straight to your inbox. Plus, you'll get healthy living updates too.

Save Recipe

The Accusation

Just this past Sunday, I got an email from a reader that took me off guard.

I had sent out a newsletter entitled:

“Today Only Essential Oils Savings – FREE Shipping, Discounts, & Xmas Delivery”

This reader replied to my newsletter saying “You lost me with the “X” instead of “Christ”mas. “

I felt horrible, but I quickly emailed a response to address her concerns and it led me to want to address this publicly.

I figured it would straighten things out for the future, plus it’s a fabulous opportunity for learning more about the Early Christians.

nativity scene with text overlay saying does xmas take christ out of christmas.

The “Xmas” vs. Christmas Debate

There has been some talk over the years regarding those who use the term “Xmas” instead of “Christ”mas are doing so in order to “take the Christ out of Christmas”.

Is that what I was doing?

No, and it grieves my heart to think that someone would think that that was my motive.

So let me explain.

When I was finishing up my newsletter, I needed to choose a title for it and the space allotted to me is quite short. If I type in too many characters, the full title won’t show and it doesn’t always make sense. So while figuring out how to shorten the title, I decided to use “Xmas” instead of “Christmas.”Typically, in years past, I wouldn’t have done that due to the talk about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas and my not wishing to participate in removing Christ from Christmas — or any Holiday, for that matter :).

I heard folks talking about the need to say “Merry Christmas” and stating that if one used “Xmas” instead of “Christ”mas, that they were trying to secularize the Christian Holiday by avoiding saying “Christ” and it concerned me.

I even remember sheepishly writing “Xmas” while taking notes in college.  I justified my actions by thinking “well, no one else is seeing this–I’m just trying to write as fast as I can and take advantage of a convenient abbreviation.

My Xmas “Conversion”

So how did this “concerned about Keeping Christ in Christmas” gal end up using “Xmas” in a blog newsletter title?

Here’s how.

One thing you might not know about me is that my husband has an MDiv (a Master’s of Divinity).  That’s pretty much the Master’s Degree that one gets when thinking about going into the pastorate.

He had intended to use the degree on the mission field, but also for his PhD as his area of concentration is John Milton, who is arguably one of the most famous Christian writers.

We had a change of plans and now he is an English Professor, but suffice it to say he cares a good deal about his faith.

We both do.

The Meaning of the “X”

Well, typically we think of the “X” as being an unknown as in algebra where we solve problems like “x + 2 = 3y” and such.
Or we think of the X in X-rated (not a good association).

Or the “X” means to cross out or mark a space (e.g. “x-out the answer or “x marks the spot”)

But in this case, the X in Xmas is really not an X, but instead it’s a reference to Christ.

While in seminary, “Whole New Dad” (he’s really not called this–I’m just calling him this for fun) took COPIOUS notes and he had “Xtian” (Christian) written numerous times in the margins of books and elsewhere.  

I noticed it, and asked him about it, since I’d thought that the “x” was removing Christ from a word, but here it was being used by someone who certainly wouldn’t want to do that.

“Whole New Dad” corrected my thinking, informing me that the “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek, meaning “Christ”.

The first letter of the Greek word “Christos” is represented in our English alphabet as an X. And the X has come been a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ throughout history.

Interesting, eh?

So it then follows that “Xmas” isn’t a non-religious version of “Christmas”.

Instead, it’s just a way to write “Christ” in a shorthand way.

Additionally, I think it’s interesting, in thinking of the way that Christ died, that the “X” forms a kind of cross.

Instead of worrying about the “X” being a problem, we could actually be excited about our connection to the Early Christians in our use of their symbol for Christ.

(Source)

Here are a few more posts to make your Xmas a little bit healthier.

I hope that you and yours have a Very Blessed Xmas!
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

85 Comments

  1. Thank you for this explanation. In our Christmas series this year our pastor addressef Christmas myths and explained this one to us, saying very much the same you did, that early Christians used this and that X represents Christ.
    It just shows that a Christian is never too old too learn something new.
    I trust you and your famly had a blessed Christmas this year,

    1. Hi Susan – yes we for sure can keep learning. My husband has an MDiv and has studied the Bible for many years. He still learns. He says this often–he has a PhD and can still be wrong / not know as much as someone without a PhD in his area of focus. Someone might have read something that he hasn’t read on a topic and will know more about it than he does. We should always be willing to listen and be wrong and learn. About most things of course – there are very very few things that are things I know I am not wrong about–who Jesus is, that God exists, and that there is corruption everywhere. And even then, I’m willing to hear people out who have different thoughts or beliefs on those topics, but I am not going to change my mind about those :). Thank you for the kind wishes – – We are stretching things out as usual. Had a lot of bumps this year and so we’ll be celebrating some more today. This post talks a little bit about that and though it’s not always what I want, nor for the reason I want, it can be really helpful https://wholenewmom.com/slowing-down-for-christmas/. Take care!

  2. This book fleshes out quite a bit of history including the X aspect of Christmas. I’m not 100% sure if it all tracks, but it is worth consideration. I don’t feel this is anything I would argue over – feels like straining at gnats to me. I know a man who didn’t come to know Christ until his late 50s. He is an avid football fan. Until he came to Christ, he never even noticed the “John 3:16” banners often hung by fans behind the goal post to “advertise” salvation. He had no idea what it meant or even how to look into a Bible to find out. I don’t mean to say that the attempt to share Christ is in vain – I believe no Word of God returns empty – but the Holy Spirit often uses us doing the work, living Godly lives and talking to people about Him.

    https://www.amazon.com/There-Really-Santa-Claus-Traditions/dp/0965355748

  3. When you said you didn’t think you had influence in college so you used it but was embarrassed, I really thought you were going to make some sense with this. Instead you rant on about how we should care about the history (that no one in the “world” would know or care about so they ARE using “X” to take the “Christ “word” out of Christmas obv & convenience yet no one says H’ween helloooo) then you come back around & use it at the end? Yes we can be “enthused” but that’s not why ppl use it. Come onnnn, this is such a sad explanation & it gives ppl an excuse to use it now. I shared it w/ non Christians & Christians, all 30+ of them said the same thing… no one would know the history & why would you use that if Christ was the least bit important to you. Disappointing.

    1. Hi Jess.
      It seems that you’re really confused – hopefully I can clear this up. I did edit the wording a bit after reading your comment but…the point was that I was taking class notes in college so no one was going to read them and be offended. Does that make sense?

      Then I wrote about how I found out that the X wasn’t offensive and didn’t take Christ out of Christmas.

      That’s why I used it in the end.

      I don’t understand what you mean by “enthused” –

      Yes, people can use it now and I don’t see why not since it’s an abbreviation and not taking Christ out of anything. That was the point.

      As for your sharing it with 30+ people, how did you do that, may I ask? Did you send them the link or did you take your device around to them? The reason I ask is that there haven’t been 30+ page views on that post for a long time. So I don’t know how you did that.

      I explained the history so now people can read this and understand. My husband used this abbreviation in a well respected, non “progressive” seminary. He cares about Christ.

      I hope that clarifies things. Merry Christmas and Merry Xmas to you and yours :).

    2. Actually, Jess, I AM aware of the significance in the X As Christ. I’m no scholar, and didn’t go to college. I wanted to know the same thing years ago regarding the X removing Christ in using it, so I researched. I think many Christians would also do the same thing. (if they want to use X or not!!!) I think you are very harsh to judge Whole New Mom for this post, AND for using X to represent Christ in the past and now. AND I feel that this post is extremely relevant to all who read, of course, without judgement!

  4. Wait wait wait…. you wrote this whole blog and even went into details about the x in x mas but can’t add just five extra letters instead. As a Christian myself the x won’t bring people to Christ. Imagine if you ran into someone who wasn’t from this land and had never heard the gospels and you said merry x mas to them. Isn’t it much easier to just say Christ is the greatest gift of the world his birthday is called Christmas rather than explain the Greek letters and history of abrievations.
    You can go to school for your MIV but it’s up to God to decide how He uses you. He is the authority not your degree.

    1. Hi there. No, you have it wrong. I didn’t say that I couldn’t add the five letters. I was just explaining the history and how it wasn’t meant to take Christ out of Christmas. Hope that makes sense. What is an MIV? Do you mean M Div?

  5. That was really useful thank you
    It’s good to know
    I was against using Xmas but I think it would still be beneficial to use the full name so Christ’s name is visible as apposed to an X
    I would have thought (might be wrong) that it was a secular group that may be responsible for the change regardless of the coincidence,
    What does everyone think?

    1. Thanks for reading and for the kind words. So I don’t know for sure but there is evidence of Xmas being used back in the 16th century – the abbreviation appeared on a Canadian stamp in 1898. Apparently abbreviations were common when there wasn’t broad use of the printing press, so it looks like it wasn’t a way to remove Christ from the conversation at all. I personally like writing Christmas but there are times when taking sermon notes, etc. that I write “x” and my husband, who has an MDiv, does the same :).

      1. Thanks for the reply
        I guess we should leave it up to our own personal convictions
        Bless you and the work you do ??

    2. Over 40 years ago I made a disparaging remark about “X-mas” to my Dad, a man of faith and an astute linguist; he gave me the same explanation! Well done, Whole New Mom!

      1. Hi Nancy! Thanks for the kind words! I don’t know if my husband would say that he’s an astute linguist but he is a man of faith and he has an MA, M Div and PhD in English Literature….so they would have quite a bit to talk about for sure!

    3. @ Kevin: No, it was Christians who first used it, after Christ was crucified and rose. They were trying to hide, but be able to gather, so it was one way to let other Christians know that CHRISTIANS were gathering to speak about Christ without letting the Romans (or other non Christians) know.

  6. Hi,

    Here it is Wed, the 4th, 2017, and I am catching up on emails! Thank you for this explanation regarding Xmas vs Christmas. I had heard this before and forgot about it. How we make such a big deal, when in reality, there is so much going on in the world, not just our little place. We are only house around that still is lit up. We always keep it lit outside for the Feast of the Three Kings (12th day of Christmas). No one seems to know that or the fact that the song was actually a way to teach catechism to children when it was forbidden. I know people who take their tree down the day after because they are tired of having it up. Yep, they put it up before Thanksgiving. Did not mean to go on, just a thank you and blessings to you and your family in 2017!

  7. What is the meaning of Christmas? Where did the customs and traditions originate?

    You, as a Christian, would want to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth, discerning good from evil.

    The truth is that all of the customs of Christmas pre-date the birth of Jesus Christ, and a study of this would reveal that
    Christmas in our day is a collection of traditions and practices taken from many cultures and nations.

    The date of December 25th comes from Rome and was a celebration of the Italic god, Saturn, and the rebirth of the sun god.

    This was done long before the birth of Jesus.

    It was noted by the pre-Christian Romans and other pagans, that daylight began to increase after December 22nd, when they assumed that the sun god died.

    These ancients believed that the sun god rose from the dead three days later as the new-born and venerable sun.

    Thus, they figured that to be the reason for increasing daylight.

    This was a cause for much wild excitement and celebration. Gift giving and merriment filled the temples of ancient Rome, as sacred priests of Saturn, called dendrophori, carried wreaths of evergreen boughs in procession.

    In Germany, the evergreen tree was used in worship and celebration of the yule god, also in observance of the resurrected sun god.

    The evergreen tree was a symbol of the essence of life and was regarded as a phallic symbol in fertility worship.

    Witches and other pagans regarded the red holly as a symbol of the menstrual blood of the queen of heaven, also known as Diana.

    1. Thank you Adrienne for casting the clarity of light on this non-issue. It once again shows us that Christianity is just a mythological doctrine stolen or “repurposed” from the Greeks, the Romans, the Mesapitainians, the Babylonians, the Jews and many others before them. People get so invested in their beliefs that they take it way too seriously and fanatically. 600 years from now people will be regarding “Christianity” like we regard the Greek and Roman mythology today, as a complete hoaX.

      1. I’m really confused here. I was talking about saying Xmas vs Christmas. I in no way feel that Christianity is a mythological doctrine. Can you tell me what you make of Jesus of Nazareth saying that he was God? Was he lying? Crazy?

  8. Huh, never thought of this issue. I live in Belgium, we speak Dutch and talk of “Kerstmis” en “Kerst”, both words having nothing to do with Jezus Christ or “Christus” as we sometimes also say in Belgium.

    1. Interesting. So what is Kerstmis and Kert then? What do they mean? Nice to meet you! I had hoped to visit your country when I was in Europe many years ago – my father is from Ireland and I visited a few countries using a Eurail Pass. I remember smelling the lovely Belgian chocolate from the train as we stopped there going to another country.

  9. I love that you blogged about this! My dad is a pastor, and my parents and I were missionaries on the island of Cyprus for six years- we moved there when I was 8, and came back right when I started high school. So you can imagine the culture was a huge part of my growing up! Since they speak a dialect of Greek, I became very familiar with it- not so much speaking it, since my parents were teachers at an English-speaking schoo, but definitely reading it! Because of this, using X as shorthand for Christ was actually something I did all the time, even before I was old enough to know about the whole debate over it. And, like your husband, I did it for Xmas, Xian, and Xianity. I do it all over the place, lol. It’s second nature for me, and I often forget other people don’t automatically know what it means like I do because of where I grew up. If I’m writing something I know others will be reading, I’ll usually try to write out the full word, but I still forget many times. Then I get to have a fun conversation, like you are now! 🙂 It even happened with our pastor’s wife one time, because I just assumed she would know, and she was a little concerned till I explained it. Just goes to show that you never know how people will interpret something. I think it’s great to keep using it, though, because it provides lots of opportunities to not only connect people to the early church, but also to foster thoughtful conversations. There’s such a prejudice against Xianity in our culture today, that sometimes we can get hyper-sensitive about things that can be perceived as giving away ground. We can over-compensate and sometimes get too insistent about trying to make sure people KNOW it’s CHRISTmas. I think the best policy is to be yourself- to neither censor yourself nor ramp up your “Xianese”/religious lingo. Both are defensive reactions, and are allowing our culture to dictate our actions. I think the best policy is to be as we always have been, infuse every encounter with the love of X, and if anyone has a problem or concern, to have a great loving conversation- like this one that you started here! Kudos to you, and a very Merry Xmas! :))

    1. How interesting – Cypress :)! I used to live in Japan but it was only for 1 year and even that really influenced me. I taught English as well.

      I know what you mean about the prejudice against Christianity now – it’s very unfortunate but I guess the Bible said it was coming.
      Thanks and Merry Xmas to you as well!

  10. Great post. Even before I took Ancient Greek I knew this, and it has always really bothered me when people get uptight about “Xmas.” Thanks for addressing it!

  11. I was aware of the shorthand meaning of Xmas but I think it’s a little rude of someone to call you out on it, especially when they’re coming from a closed-minded position. That’s just my opinion though 🙂

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Sharon. I just found your comment in spam – sorry. I am having an issue with that and hope to fix it soon!!!

    2. Sharon & Adrienne, I know this is WAY late in the conversation, but I just had to respond. Sharon, I think your “opinion” is right on. Too bad that the closed-minded people aren’t open minded enough to recognize that they’re being closed-minded.

      1. Thanks, Varina. And just so you know, it’s never too late – I try to keep comments open for this very reason. Take care.