Tis the season! For a couple of months now we’ve been bombarded with ads from retailers reminding us that it’s Christmas – or Xmas. We don’t really think much about this widely used abbreviation – Xmas – but it seems it’s quite a touchy topic for some people. There have been suggestions that retailers have deliberately ‘taken Christ out of Christmas’ to make the festive season a more secular event.
Now you may be thinking that Xmas is really not that wacky a word, but it does have an interesting history so I think it deserves a mention here. As does the fact that Xmas really doesn’t exclude Christ at all.
Using ‘X’ as an abbreviation for Christ goes way back to Constantine’s reign. In Ancient Greek, the first two letters of Christ are chi and rho, written as X and P respectively. This led to this Christian monogram still used today:
X has also been used for centuries as an abbreviation for Christ. Xmas has been in use since at least the fifteenth century and the advent of the Gutenberg printing press. Back then, typesetting was very expensive and the church used many abbreviations in their printed material – including Xmas to mean Christmas.
So it’s not such a modern invention after all. But, for the record, we prefer Christmas.