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
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.