The Meaning They May Not Have Noticed
Now that Christmas is over, and Christmas decorations are coming down, I have a little holiday confession to make: for years, it bothered me when people would abbreviate Christmas as X-mas.
I always saw it as either laziness or people trying to be sacrilegious. I never use X-mas as an abbreviation myself. If I were to abbreviate Christmas, I’d probably turn the x on its side, so it’d come out something like †mas. But that would be going a long way to make a point, and it could easily be misread as T-mas, so I just write it out. That’s my own preference.
But I stumbled on an interesting fact about the abbreviation the other day.
The abbreviation is a lot older than I ever realized. And despite the appearance that Christ’s name has been removed, the abbreviation is actually still a Christ-centered shorthand.
That’s because the X isn’t just a random letter in this little equation. Its use dates back to the 18th century or earlier, long before text-message shorthand turns nearly every word imaginable into fair game for would-be shorteners.
The X is actually the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, Chi, which is the first letter in the Greek word Χριστός, which translates as Christ. So in that respect, X-mas is really more like C-mas.
But wait, it gets more interesting. It was common practice for Greeks to refer to Christ solely by the letter Chi.
Which turns X-mas, from a historical perspective, at least, back into Christmas.
It’s not an abbreviation I’m likely to use, but maybe I’ll be a little less bothered by it when I see it elsewhere.