By James Hickman
It seems every year I hear someone make commentary around the holidays about the meaning of Christmas, and the sometimes demonized abbreviation for our favorite holiday, Xmas.
As social media has taken rise over the course of the past years, I have seen comments made on various media sites addressing this topic by what some would call militant Christians protesting this abbreviation, and stating “leave Christ in Christmas”.
The following is a post I saw just today on Facebook:
I DO NOT CARE IF THIS DOES OFFEND SOMEONE…THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE…I AM SICK AND TIRED OF EVERY YEAR WHEN CHRISTMAS COMES AROUND; THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TAKE CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS BECAUSE IT MIGHT OFFEND SOMEONE…WELL, HOW ABOUT ALL OF THE CHRISTIANS?…WHAT ABOUT OFFENDING US BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING OUR CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS?…CHRIST IS CHRISTMAS!…IF YOU AREN’T CELEBRATING CHRIST THEN WHY ARE YOU CELEBRATING?…CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR!…CHRISTMAS IS ONE OF A FEW HOLIDAYS LEFT THAT CELEBRATE “MY” CHRIST!…LEAVE “MY” HOLIDAY ALONE!…AND TELL EVERYONE MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS!…RE-POST IF YOU’RE NOT ASHAMED…AND IT IS NOT XMAS..IT IS CHRISTMAS…
Dennis Bratcher, writing for a website for Christians, states “there are always those who loudly decry the use of the abbreviation ‘Xmas’ as some kind of blasphemy against Christ and Christianity”.
Among them are evangelist Franklin Graham and CNN journalist Roland S. Martin. Graham stated in an interview:
for us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ
Martin likewise relates the use of “Xmas” to his growing concerns of increasing commercialization and secularization of one of Christianity’s highest holy days. Bratcher posits that those who dislike abbreviating the word are unfamiliar with a long history of Christians using X in place of “Christ” for various purposes. (source: Wikipedia)
Bratcher wrote in this excerpt:
This misunderstanding and fear mongering about the use of “Xmas” is not a new phenomenon. I heard the same kinds of comments in sermons many years ago. It was especially prevalent among those Christians and church leaders who wanted or needed to see the world in negative and threatening terms, or who tended to see everything in society as part of some grand conspiracy of Satan or the inexorable working out of God’s own predetermined plan, without really knowing all the facts or complexities of the situation.
I have no doubt that some people write “Xmas” because they are too busy or too lazy to write out the whole word. And no doubt some secular people, who are just as uninformed as Christians, see “Xmas” as a way to avoid writing “Christ.” And certainly there are secular and commercial motives in the fact that “XMAS” appears in ads and signs because it can be larger and more attention getting in the same amount of space (more bang for the buck). But those factors do not take away the thoroughly Christian origin of the word “Xmas.” In this instance, all of the hype and hysteria over supposedly taking Christ out of Christmas by writing “Xmas” instead of spelling out “Christmas” is both uninformed and misdirected.
Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. The letters of the word “Christ” in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, or various titles for Jesus early became symbols of Christ and Christianity. For example, the first two letters of the word Christ (cristoV, or as it would be written in older manuscripts, CRISTOS) are the Greek letters chi (c or C) and rho (r or R). These letters were used in the early church to create the chi-rho monogram, a symbol that by the fourth century became part of the official battle standard of the emperor Constantine.
Another example is the symbol of the fish, one of the earliest symbols of Christians that has been found scratched on the walls of the catacombs of Rome. It likely originated from using the first letter of several titles of Jesus (Jesus Christ Son of God Savior). When combined these initial letters together spelled the Greek word for fish (icquV, ichthus).
The exact origin of the single letter X for Christ cannot be pinpointed with certainty. Some claim that it began in the first century AD along with the other symbols, but evidence is lacking. Others think that it came into widespread use by the thirteenth century along with many other abbreviations and symbols for Christianity and various Christian ideas that were popular in the Middle Ages. However, again, the evidence is sparse.
In any case, by the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation C for the word “Christ” to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and “Xmas” became an accepted way of printing “Christmas” (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity). Even Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.
So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. In fact, as with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation “Xmas” should be pronounced “Christmas” just as if the word were written out in full, rather than saying “exmas.” Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season – Dennis Bratcher
Copyright © 2011, Dennis Bratcher – All Rights Reserved
In the United States, in 1977 New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson sent out a press release saying that he wanted journalists to keep the “Christ” in Christmas, and not call it Xmas—which he asserted was a “pagan” spelling of Christmas.
I contend that the root of the demonization of the abbreviation Xmas in this country arose from a preconceived political notion not intended to truly defend that which is sacred, namely the name of Christ, but most likely for some alternatively disguised political necessity or perception: derived with the purpose of advancing political careers, and subsequently a myriad of extreme causes brought forth by those who either have a political agenda, or those who simply do not take the time to research bandwagon causes before they endorse them.
Either way, I am sick and tired of hearing poorly informed ritualistic sheeple prattle on about topics they have virtually no knowledge of in the first place.
The word Xmas as with other abbreviations such as Mr. and Mrs. are pronounced Christmas, Mister, and Misses in that order. Each abbreviation means exactly what it stands for.
So for the sake of the preservation of the fact that Christmas is a time for fellowship and celebration, not a time to be arguing over symbols that have been in use for a thousand years, how about we take the politics out of Xmas (Christmas) instead of arguing over irrelevant and inaccurate points, and spend our energy doing something positive.