Keep the X in X-Mas
The abbreviation offends 6 in 10 evangelicals, but its history is deeply Christian
Though the demand for “more Christ in Christmas” seems to be losing momentum, most evangelicals still believe the holiday—and its seasonal greetings—should more explicitly reference the Savior….
Over the years, LifeWay found the abbreviation “X-mas” to be just as controversial as “Happy holidays” or more, with 42 percent of Christians and 33 percent of Americans saying it was offensive in this year’s survey.
Nearly 6 in 10 of those with evangelical beliefs (59%) find the use of “X-mas” instead of Christmas offensive.
The great irony in the distaste for the term “X-mas” is that it is thoroughly Christian, rather than an effort to remove the word Christ from the holiday.
The “X” in X-mas is not really an “X” at all. It’s chi, the Greek letter at the start of the word Christ, or Christos (Χριστός). Since the earliest era of political Christendom, “X” has been used as a shorthand for Christ, as LifeWay’s own Facts & Trends pointed out.
Constantine, the first emperor to convert to Christianity and whose Edict of Milan sought to free Christians from persecution, instructed his soldiers to inscribe the letter on their shields before the landmark Battle of Milvian Bridge. The chi “X” was paired with “P,” representing the Greek letter rho, the first two letters of and a signifier for the name Christ. Legend has it, the chi rho symbol came to Constantine in a vision.
Using “X” as an abbreviation for Christ is also thought to have appeared in many Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.
Even incorporating “X” into an English-language abbreviation for Christmas dates back a millennium. In the year 1021, an Anglo-Saxon scribe condensed Christmas to “XPmas,” and eventually the “P” was dropped to shorten the term even further, First Things noted.
According to the Christian Research Institute, the church was substituting “Christ” with “X” in the middle of the fifteenth century to save space and money when using newly invented printing presses, and Webster’s dictionary recognizes “X-mas” as a common term by the sixteenth century….
“People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ’s name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, ‘Put Christ back into Christmas’ as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ,” he said.
“There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.”
And from a while back now, a blog post from writer Blair Thornburgh on Christmas carols, with which I heartily agree:
I love Christmas carols. HOWEVER: I do NOT love what most of the idiot world considers to be a Christmas carol. Songs about sleighs, Santa, sugarplums, etc., are NOT carols, they are garbage that deserves to rot on the side of the street like so much crumpled wrapping paper.
No, the truly best Christmas carols fall into at least one of the following categories:
1. Songs in Latin
2. Songs about food
3. Songs about Hell and/or avoidance thereof
4. Songs about decidedly non-canonical adventures of Jesus, Mary, and/or Joseph
5. Songs that use the word “flesh”
6. Good King Wenceslas
Bonus points are awarded if the song was clearly hastily Christianized with a few macaronic verses or if it sounds good played on the bagpipe.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
This is the only mainstream Christmas carol that mentions Satan, and IN THE FIRST VERSE, no less. (It was also my favorite as a kid for this self-same reason.) This is metal as heck.
The Holly and the Ivy
Two plants get uppity about which is better; also, Jesus was born. This carol gets major points for terrible rhymes (blood/good, grown/crown) which as we all know is a favorite territory of mine. I also like to think that this carol is directly responsible for the absence of ivy from conventional Christmas decorations.
The Cherry Tree Carol
If you do not know the lyrics to this one, go look them up, for verily they are BONKERS. A preggo Mary is wandering around and sees a bunch of delicious cherries growing on a tree. Being incapacitated due to her expectatory state, she asks Joseph to pick some for her, but he’s like “eh, why don’t you let the FATHER OF YOUR CHILD pick them” and then Jesus FROM INSIDE THE WOMB commands the tree to reach its branches down to Mary. I’m about 70% sure this didn’t actually happen in the Bible, but it probably should have.
In the Bleak Midwinter
This one is actually really annoying and smarmy (obviously, the lyrics are by Christina Rossetti) but it DOES contain the titillating phrase “a BREAST full of MIIIIILK” at which I challenge not to snort when the tenor soloist sings it plangently. (Tenors are always singing plangently.)
More at the link. Merry Christmas everybody!