Reading Time: 3 minutes
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Have you heard Christians express their frustration with society for abbreviating “Christmas” as “Xmas”?
Or seen people on Facebook saying “Put Christ back in Christmas”? There are some who worry that replacing “Christmas” with “Xmas” will further remove the centrality of Jesus Christ from Christmas. However, the fear of this shorthand may be unwarranted. Let’s provide some historical context to see why.
The main written language in Jesus’ day was Greek. The word “Christ” in Greek is Christos, and the first two Greek letters of that are “chi” (pronounced K-eye) and “rho” (pronounced row). The letter “chi” looks like an X in Greek.
By the early fourth century, people were using a shorthand symbol based on the first two letters of Christ, chi rho, to denote Jesus Christ. This was a common reference and can be seen on many tombs and pieces of artwork.
The Roman Emperor Constantine famously affixed this emblem on all his soldiers’ shields just prior to the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 after receiving a vision from God saying “In this sign, you will conquer”. As a side note, scholars cast doubt on whether the vision and subsequent emblems occurred in just this way, suggesting that the vision and emblems may have been primarily a political move by Constantine. This tradition of abbreviating Christ using the chi rho monogram continued throughout the centuries and also took shape as just the chi / X as a way to save space.
Returning to our holiday dilemma, if you see “Xmas” or “Xnity” (Christianity), remember that this shorthand has deep roots in referencing Jesus Christ. One could make an argument that using “Xmas” instead of “Christmas” is still a less desirable option, because few people are aware of this historical context and “Christmas” serves as a better reminder to others of the real reason for the season.
But whether you choose “Xmas” or “Christmas”, remember the historical roots of this shorthand in Christianity. And if the opportunity arises for you to talk with someone about “Xmas” vs “Christmas”, use that opportunity to go further and discuss the real reason for the season: Jesus.
Which do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below!
About The Author:
Grant Duncan is the founder of Theology Impact. He graduated from Wheaton College in 2015 and has a passion for helping people apply their faith to make a Kingdom impact.