With Twitter and Facebook–saying as much as you can with an economy of words has become the new challenge. Especially during the Christmas season, with only 140 characters on Twitter, you have to keep it short and on many of my posts Christmas has been written as X-mas which has caused a bit of stir.
Some have thought me disrespectful or using slang. So whether people agree with using X-mas or not, perhaps a little background on its use will at least help people understand why at the very least X-mas is not slang, disrespectful or “taking Christ out of Christmas.” I am indebted to WikiAnswers for helping me provide a concise but detailed explanation.
Writing Xmas is not slang nor is it taking Christ out of the season. In many respects, Greek is the language of Christianity–the New Testament was written in Greek and utilized the Greek alphabet. There are still traces of the Greek in symbols and phrases used today, like calling God ‘the alpha and the omega’ meaning ‘the beginning and the end’ because alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega is the last. It’s like calling Him the A to Z!
Another place you might see Greek symbolism used in modern western Christianity is the Ichthys or fish symbol. You’ll have seen it somewhere, it’s the classic fish shape that people sometimes use to show they’re Christian. It’s called an Ichthys because that is Greek for fish. Why a fish as a symbol of Christianity? Because ‘Ichthys’ stands for Içsous Khristos Theou Huios, Sôtçr which means “Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior.” The ‘ch’ in Ichthys stands for Christ, and the Greek symbol used to for ‘ch’ looks a lot like an ‘X.’
Similarly, the ‘Chi-Rho’ symbol that looks like an ‘X’ superimposed over a ‘P’ is actually the Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) which are the first letters in Christ’s name. This symbol, like the fish, is almost as old as the Cross symbol and can be found scratched on the walls in the early Christian Church catacombs in Rome. The coincidence that the ‘X’ Chi letter also looks like a cross resulted in the ‘X’ being adopted as an abbreviation for “Christ.”
From ancient times, Christians have used the Greek letter that looks like an ‘X’ as an abbreviation of ‘Christ.’ Therefore, ‘Christians’ is abbreviated to ‘Xians,’ ‘Christ’ is abbreviated to ‘X’ and ‘Christmas’ is abbreviated to ‘Xmas.’ This is useful when people want a shorter way of writing something and is a reminder of Christianity’s roots.
The word ‘X-mas’ should never be pronounced ‘Ex-mass’ as the ‘X’ in it is not the letter ‘X’ in our alphabet. The letter is actually the Greek letter Chi “χ” (which looks like an ‘X’) which is the first letter of the Greek word ‘Christos’ meaning ‘Christ’.” Therefore ‘X-mas’ should be pronounced simply ‘Christmas’ because that is exactly what it is.
While you may not like the use of X-mas as an abbreviation for Christmas…the ‘X’ stands for Christ…it has since the earliest of times. Christ is the reason for the season… and for everything else.