Christmas or Xmas?

Christmas or Xmas?

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Does it bother you when you see the word “Christmas” written out as “Xmas”? If so, you’re not alone.

Around Christmas each year, there are some who openly decry the use of the abbreviation Xmas as a kind of blasphemy against Christianity, arguing that it “Xs Christ out of Christmas.” In response to the modern debates about the public display of manger scenes and substituting “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” many have become sensitive to anything that smacks of contempt for the Christian faith.

The truth is, Xmas is anything but disrespectful or blasphemous to Christ. In fact, evidence suggests that it was the early church that began using the term ‘Xmas’ in place of ‘Christmas.’ The use of Xmas has thoroughly Christian origins.

the chi-rho monogram. It looks like an X overliad by a P.
the chi-rho monogram

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) became symbols of Christ and Christianity. For example, the first two letters of the word Christ (χριστοσ in Greek, or as it would be written in older manuscripts, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ) are the Greek letters chi (x or X) and rho (p or P). These letters were used in the early church to create the chi-rho monogram. This symbol stands for “Christ.” Over time, just the first letter, the X, came to symbolize “Christ.”

image of an 1898 Christmas stamp with "Xmas" written on it.
An 1898 Christmas stamp utilizing ‘Xmas’ to indicate “Christmas”

By the fifteenth century, the word ‘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, thechurch began to use the abbreviation ‘X’ 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).

So, there it is. Xmas and Christmas are one in the same. Both honor Christ as the centerpiece of this blessed season. With this in mind….

Have a wonderful Advent and a Merry Xmas!!


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