John Larrysson's Column: Xmas vs. Christmas

I have been told that Xmas is an attempt by atheists to take the Christ out of Christmas as part of a war on Christmas. This is not true for several reasons. 

First, there is no atheist war on Christmas. In the English speaking world most atheists celebrate Christmas, have parties, gifts and holiday time. They just do not perform any religious observances, just like many Christians.

[audio 1]

There has been a war on Christmas, by strict Protestants, called Puritans who banned the celebration of Christmas in England hundreds of years ago. Their reasoning was that Christmas is a pagan celebration, whose name was changed. There is nothing about Christmas in the Bible nor any reference to the date of Christ's birth. The Puritans ruled England from their execution of Charles I on the 30th of January 1649 until the return of his son Charles II on the 29th of May 1660. After they lost control of the government of England, Christmas was restored. 

[audio 2]

The X in Xmas does not represent crossing the name of Christ out.  It is not even English. The X in Xmas is an ancient abbreviation using the Greek letter chi (X). In Greek, the name Christ (Χριστός) begins with chi (X). Other old abbreviations for Christ include Xp or Xr. Short forms were important because, a thousand years ago the cost of writing material was very high. [Other Old English spellings for Xmas include X'temmas (1551) and Xres mæsse (1100).]

[audio 3]

The second part of Christmas, mas is short for mass. A mass is a Catholic religious ritual. The Catholic church celebrates a midnight mass of Christ (Cristes mæsse in Old English) to celebrate Christ's birth on the 25th December.   

There is nothing immoral or irreligious about the use of the abbreviation Xmas instead of Christmas. However keep in mind that some people may get annoyed. 

[audio 4]

Previous Articles on Christmas:

Winter Wonderland

Good King Wenceslas (3 of 3) What is the meaning of the words? (Second Half)

Good King Wenceslas (2 of 3) What is the meaning of the words? (First Half)

Good King Wenceslas? (1 of 3) Who was Good King Wenceslas?

Deck the Halls (2 of 2) To Troll a Christmas Song

Deck the Halls (1 of 2) To Deck the Halls with Evergreen

A Christmas Song Explained

Christmas Cake & Pudding

by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


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