The Xmas vs Christmas Debate.
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 with this email:"You lost me with the "X" instead of "Christ" mas. "
I felt horrible.
And quickly emailed a response to address her concerns.
And just in case someone else might have felt the same way, I wanted to address this publicly. Plus I think it's a fabulous opportunity for learning more about the Early Christians.
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?
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.
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.
I guess instead of worrying about the "X" being a problem, perhaps we could be enthused about our connection to the Early Christians in our use of their symbol for Christ.
I hope that you and yours have a Very Blessed Xmas!
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this!