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A Christmas Lesson: XMas
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Christmas Gift to those who need it is a small lesson, a push back against culturally inherited grievances and mythology: XMas is neither disrespectful nor sacrilegious.

Growing up, I sometimes heard - in church and from various religious scolds - that XMas was a secular attempt to "take Christ out of Christmas", rather than, say, an attempt to save valuable space on signs. From
Claim: 'Xmas' is a modern, disrespectful abbreviation of the word 'Christmas.'

Status: False.

Origins: The abbreviation of 'Xmas' for 'Christmas' is neither modern nor disrespectful. The notion that it is a new and vulgar representation of the word 'Christmas' seems to stem from the erroneous belief that the letter 'X' is used to stand for the word 'Christ' because of its resemblance to a cross, or that the abbreviation was deliberately concocted "to take the 'Christ' out of Christmas." Actually, this usage is nearly as old as Christianity itself, and its origins lie in the fact that the first letter in the Greek word for 'Christ' is 'chi,' and the Greek letter 'chi' is represented by a symbol similar to the letter 'X' in the modern Roman alphabet. Hence 'Xmas' is indeed perfectly legitimate abbreviation for the word 'Christmas' (just as 'Xian' is also sometimes used as an abbreviation of the word 'Christian').

None of this means that Christians (and others) aren't justified in feeling slighted when people write 'Xmas' rather than 'Christmas,' but the point is that the abbreviation was not created specifically for the purpose of demeaning Christ, Christians, Christianity, or Christmas — it's a very old artifact of a very different language.
Let's add to this one more valuable lesson: Don't take offense where none is intended. You'll end up with a martyr mentality, objecting to XMas and imagining a "War on Christmas."

Now you know. Abbreviate at will and be at peace.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Hehe... OK, you’re correct. It’s a point I’ve made myself a few times.

But that having been accomplished, tell me.. if the people claiming this was a move to remove Christ from Christmas didn’t know this...(And I suspect you’re correct that they did not in large part) ...explain to me how you figure the people who were using the phrase were supposed to know it? What was their purpose in using it?

No real argument here, just a bit of a teaser.

Hope your Christmas was a good one, Jon.

Written By: Bithead
Generally, it’s done for the same reasons we abbreviate many other words - to save space/letters on signs, to save time/effort, etc.
Written By: Jon Henke
I’ve seen "Xmas" used since I was a kid in the early Sixties—long before the current culture wars over Christianity. My sense was that it was an abbreviation, like the "Xmas bonus" card in Monopoly.

On the other hand, though one could make a similar argument, "Xtian," "Xtians," and "Xtianity" are different and rub me the wrong way. In my experience those are only used by people who dislike Christianity as a mild way of expressing their disrespect.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
And in mine; It was the point of my question.
Written By: Bithead
My mom grew up Catholic and always used a labarum (chi-rho symbol) instead of writing out "Christmas" on the calendar for every party and event associated with Christmas.
Written By: Wacky Hermit
I wonder what would happen if we took the "Rama" out of "Ramadan."
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://
Then we’d just have Dan. Say "Goodnight", Dick.
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
As a former card-carrying member of American Atheists, and a recovering atheist, I can assure you that such words as "Xian," and "Xtian," and "gawd" (especially noting the lowercase) ARE most assuredly meant disrespectfully, and intended as slights, digs, and insults.

And I have been privy to many bitch sessions among my former brethren about wanting "non-mythological" cards which said "Happy Holidays" or "Season’s Greetings" and such to avoid having to send out "Christmas" cards (Though they never wanted to give back the day off with pay...) and often Xmas was precisely used to avoid having to mention "Christ" in "Christmas."

Yes, indeed, once upon a time "Xmas" had another intent and meaning. I may also bring up several other things that back in another era had a meaning that has changed today.
Written By: The Gonzman
URL: http://
I wonder what would happen if we took the "Rama" out of "Ramadan."
Depends who put the ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong.

Great. Now I know what I’ll be singing the rest of the day.

Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
Good to hear from you Gonzman! I emerged from parochial school not an atheist, but a person who intensely disliked Christianity and couldn’t wait for the withering away of the Christian faith. Much later the joke was on me and I now attend church regularly.

So I understand people who dislike Christianity or religion in general, and even admire some like Christopher Hitchens. We all have our different paths.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
You’ll end up with a martyr mentality, objecting to XMas and imagining a "War on Christmas."
Agree as to Xmas, although admittedly I’m partial to the letter X. As to imagining a war on Christmas, I think not. The war on Christmas is mostly over, but it was real a couple years back, not in the form of Xmas but in the form of "Happy Holidays," "Happy Solstice," "Kool Kwanzaa," "Hey buddy, enjoy the fact that you’re freezing to death," and every other contrived way of avoiding any reference to either X or Christ.
Written By: Xrlq
Using "Shorthand" for the name of Christ is itself considered a slight by some depending on the context.

In places where using Shorthand for a proper name is out of line with normal protocol or disrespectful, it would be inappropriate to use Xmas. I’d imagine personal notes, or personal correspondence, the use would be acceptable. However, in a formal context or in a published document, it would be likely inappropriate. It would be like writing a document and always using GW or GWB to refer to George Bush.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
So I understand people who dislike Christianity or religion in general, and even admire some like Christopher Hitchens. We all have our different paths.

People are certainly entitled to their beliefs. For instance, I do not beleive in the Hindu Gods. I do spell out their proper names, though, when I refer to them.

When I actively disliked Christianity, I used such things intending them as slights, to mock people of faith. It was right, just, and proper, then, for such people to take it as insults.
Written By: The Gonzman
URL: http://

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