Why do people use “Xmas” instead of “Christmas?”

nativity

I often hear Christians, with the best of intentions, say, “Using ‘Xmas’ is tying to X out ‘Christ’ from Christmas!”  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  The title “Christ,” or more accurately “Christos,” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.”  And in Greek, the first letter in the word “Christos” is “X”? (pronounced “chi” with a “k” sound).  It was in Europe during the 1500s that Christians began to use “X” to refer to “Christ” in the word “Christmas.”  Likewise, you may have even seen an ancient Christian symbol of what looks like a capital ”P” overlayed by an “X.”  It’s called the Chi Rho, which are the first two Greek letters in the title, “Christos.”  

chi-rho

So, rather than being upset when you see “Xmas,” let it all the more remind you of the person who is represented by that “X”—Jesus the Christ.  I myself am also reminded of the similar emblem of the cross.  

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Categories blog | Tags: | Posted on December 1, 2006

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8 Comments

  1. by Amanda Johnson

    On December 1, 2006

    I don’t think people generally know that! I always thought is was a play on words, coming from “criss-cross” hence using the X to abbreviate the Christ- sound in Christmas. Nobody ever says “Exmas.”

    Very interesting….thanks!!
    Amanda

  2. by Melody

    On December 2, 2006

    How funny. Brent, I had asked your wife about this symbol last year when we were using foam stickers in the 2 year old class that looked exactly like the P with the X. She, at the time, didn’t know what it meant and I had asked her to ask you about it. I didnt remember this conversation until reading this blog. I’m so excited to finally know the meaning behind the symbol and that it is indeed related to Christ himself.

    I have to admit that I’ve always been one to be annoyed by the use of “X” in place of Christ when saying Christmas and now I see how silly it is. Thanks for the info that I might share w/ other Christians who may feel that it’s a replacement or exclusion. YOu learn something new every day. Awesome. Thanks.

  3. by Brent Cunningham

    On December 2, 2006

    Melody, I think that was my fault. I remember Kristen asking me about that and I told her I’d tell you . . . and I never did! Sorry for the delay in response!!!

  4. by Melody

    On December 3, 2006

    Lol, that’s okay. I’m a patient person. :)

  5. by Teri

    On December 3, 2009

    You are correct in what you wrote, with the exception of the letter X. The X is NOT pronounced like a K (I am Greek Orthodox, my husband is a Greek Orthodox priest, so I can say this with some authority.) It is pronounced closer to the letter H in the word “Here”. Otherwise, I enjoyed what you wrote, and I hope you don’t mind my correction.

  6. by Brent Cunningham

    On December 6, 2009

    Teri, thanks for the comment. I realize the English letter “K” isn’t the exact sound of Greek “Chi” (X). But for the English speaker I believe it’s closer than the breathy “H,” no? One of the best authorities on Greek grammar, William Mounce, describes the “X” as sounding like the “ch” in the English word “loch” (with a decided Scottish accent). But, as for Greek 101, it seems to me that the “K” sound is pretty close, yes?

  7. by Anthony

    On December 26, 2009

    Great blog! I always felt it was an attack on Christianity as well. Nice to know the logic behind it. Very good. Cheers, Anthony

  8. by Joeseph

    On December 4, 2011

    “Xmas” was turned to a “Christian” holiday around 325 AD and all of the customs practiced, its date and all of the traditions are of the pagan holiday saturnalia. I know it’s unpopular to say in this world, even offensive to most, but the Bible says these customs and “traditions of men” are an abomination in God’s eyes…unwitting sun god worship. I prefer to use the “X” or just calling it what it is, “saturnalia”. Jeremiah 10: 2-5, about the x-mass tree, is one of many places where these popular practices during this season was condemned by God. God’s Holy Days are outlined in Lev 23 and Jesus himself kept them. Every way of man is right in his own eyes though.

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