Schottey Musings

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“Xmas:” A Completely Acceptable (Yet Misunderstood) Abbreviation

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“Merry Xmas!”

It seems that a lot of people don’t really misunderstand this phrase. I have seen numerous claims–both from friends online and also on T.V.–that it is a sinister way of removing Christ as part of the much larger “War on Christmas.”

From CNN’s Roland Martin:

And I’m sorry, forget X-M-A-S. Malcolm X? Yes. X replacing Christ? No.

While I refuse to debate whether there is really a “War on Christmas,” this particular claim is astounding.

From the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.

“The abbreviation Xmas (sometimes spelled Exmas) for Christmas should be avoided in formal writing. It is appropriate only for advertising copy and is usually considered substandard even there. Oddly enough, the abbreviation has a long and established history in English, dating back to its Old English form found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the twelfth century. The X is actually the Greek letter chi and has been used as a symbol for the name of Christ  (Christos) since the first century.”

So, all-of-a-sudden, in 21st century America a term is “warring on Christianity” when its roots go back to a cherished Christian tradition tracing all the way back to the time of the apostles, really?

Most Christians know the chi rho, the symbol on the right, even if they don’t know exactly what it means. What looks like “xp” to English-speakers, is actually two Greek letters that are the equivalent of “chr” in our language. Those two letters begin our Lord’s name, Χριστος.

Essentially, replacing “Christ” with the letter “X” has been in place just as long as that “Jesus-Fish” on the back of your minivan.

Respectfully, this is nothing more than a misunderstanding of language, history and symbols. While it is simple to say “just write Christmas,” a stand against “Xmas” should be followed by a stand against all abbreviations or symbols. Once upon a time, the Christian church needed this abbreviation to save printing costs in the 14th and 15th century. Now? It’s just shorthand.

Merry Christmas, or Xmas…because it means the exact same thing.


Written by Michael Schottey

December 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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