Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Xmas Delima

Most of my life I’ve heard that I should never, ever use the word “Xmas” to refer to Christmas, lest I be guilty of leaving Christ out of the holiday.  I love Jesus and certainly don’t want to leave him out, so I’ve just always stuck with using “Christmas,” and assumed that people who don’t, well… they don’t.  

But then last year I saw my pastor refer to Christmas as Xmas in a Tweet… he loves Jesus (and only had 140 characters to make his point). Then, I saw a few other friends use Xmas in text messages, tweets and Facebook statuses… they love Jesus, too. So, it made me think that maybe, just maybe I was missing out on something. Maybe there was something more to the word Xmas.

So, I did some research, and guess what I found?

The use of the word Xmas was, in fact, not designed to leave Christ out of the holiday as the marquees, bumper stickers and Facebook posts say. I’m almost embarrassed that I’m just now doing the research (and if you’ve posted one of these posts, or have the bumper sticker, I’m not judging).  

The “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, and is translated as “Christ.” The use of Xmas showed up in English in the 1500’s, pre printing press, when books were handwritten. Because it was so difficult and expensive to handwrite books, they used the word “X” to save time, space, and money. Pretty smart.

Of course, now days we don’t have much reason to abbreviate Christmas to Xmas (unless limited to 140 characters), but there’s a bit of a sense of relief that I no longer feel the need to question the motives of a person who does. I’ll just assume that they’re familiar with the origin and definition of the word, they need to abbreviate, or they’re in a hurry—regardless, I’ll choose to see Christ in it. And when my kids ask what Xmas means, I’ll explain the true origin of the word, so even if it is meant as an attempt to avoid including Christ (which no doubt happens a lot), they’ll still see Him in it.

Now, if you get a card from us (which may not happen until January the way things are going), I can guarantee that we'll say "Merry Christmas"; I just like the word (and I don’t want to run the risk of offending those who can’t get past it). But, if I’m sending a quick text or a tweet where I need to abbreviate, I may use Xmas. If that happens, you can rest easy knowing that I do love Jesus and the “X” isn’t replacing Christ, it’s just another way to say His name.   

1 comment:

Brittney said...

Very interesting! My sorority in college was Tri Chi...so we know all about what the X means...I just never put it together in Xmas!