Thursday, December 03, 2015

Keeping "X" in "Xmas"

It's that time of year again: time for Christian extremists to start posting their hatred for the term, "Xmas".  Why?  Because, as they will assuredly tell you, “Xmas” is a non-religious name/spelling for “Christmas”.  To quote: "It take Christ out of Christmas".  Turns out, though, that “Xmas” is not a non-religious version of “Christmas”. 

The “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek, meaning “Christ”. So “Xmas” and “Christmas” are equivalent in every way except their lettering.  Even the fact-checking website Snopes and the world's online encyclopedia, Wikipediahave gotten in on the action of assuaging Christian extremists.

Although writing guides such as those issued by the New York Times, the BBC, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, and Oxford Press discourage the use of Xmas in formal writing, the use of Xmas was at one time a very popular practice, particularly with religious scribes, who are thought to have started the whole “Xmas” thing in the first place. Indeed, the practice of using the symbol “X” in place of Christ’s name has been going on among religious scholars for at least 1000 years. Eventually, this shorthand trick spread to non-religious writings where nearly everywhere “Christ” appeared in a word, the Greek letter Chi ("X") would replace that part of the word. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries, there are numerous non-religious documents containing instances of “Xine”, which was a common spelling for someone whose name was Christine.  

So while using Xmas is really more about personal choice and nothing to do with blaspheming Christ, extremists will simply just have to accept that the use of Xmas is, well, acceptable.  I'd like to suggest that instead of arguing about keeping Christ in Christmas, perhaps they could work a little harder at keeping Christ in Christian.

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