Pardon My Greek [Xmas Trivia]

While some may find the term “Xmas” mildly offensive, a quick history lesson helps to clarify the meaning behind this common, though often misunderstood, abbreviation for the word Christmas. Once explained, the word takes on a completely new and richer meaning, which seems appropriate given the wonder and joy of the season for which it stands.

Going as far back as the year 1100AD, the word “Christianity” was spelt “Xianity.” The X came from the Greek letter Chi, which incidentally is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. It served as a form of symbolic stand-in and consequently, Christmas would come to be called “Xtemmas,” the “-mas” portion of the word stemming from the Latin-derived Old English word for ‘Mass’. Eventually, however, Xtemmas was shortened to the well-known version we know and use today: “Xmas.”

The use of Xtemmas itself dates to 1551 and early use of Xmas can be traced back to sometime in the 16th century as well. Interestingly, it originated as a handwritten abbreviation first and was considered informal, some sources even going so far as to say it should never be used in formal writing.

In modern-day usage though, Xmas is widely used and no longer limited to just the written word. Regardless of how you choose to use it, what is important to remember is that whether you say Christmas or Xmas, at the end of the day, you are saying the exact same thing. Merry Xmas!


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