What is Christmas vs Xmas?

Chi Rho - image by Dylan Lake - PD

Well folks, it is the Christmas Season again and the annual argument about the spelling of the holiday, Christmas vs Xmas is well underway.

I actually support the more widespread use of Xmas over Christmas as it is more traditional and has the weight of history behind it.

The annual argument often goes along the line that “X” is the ‘unknown’ and that “Xmas” is a plot to ‘de-Christianize’ the holiday and make it more secular.  That or something similar seems to raise its head with extreme predictability every year during the holidays.

The “X” in Xmas is not the English X (which does symbolize the unknown) but the Greek letter Χ (chi).  It is the first letter of Christ, Χριστός (Khristós), and it has been used as an abbreviation for Christ since ancient days.  ” Xmas” is not something new nor is it a way of removing Christ from Christmas.  “Xmas” to denote Christ’s birthday is found in Medieval (and some earlier) manuscripts. It is a much older part of Christian tradition than the modern English form of spelling it out.  “Xmas” IS the traditional spelling of the holiday.

To illustrate a bit more the importance of ‘X’ (chi) in Christian symbolism, the monogram for Christ is the chi rho, pronounced with a hard ‘c’ just like the city of Cairo.  The first two Greek letters for Christ, the chi and the rho, are simply overlapped, looking like the letter ‘P’ overlaying an ‘X’ as in the image above.

So the next time you hear someone get all ‘huffy’ over spelling Christmas as Xmas, now you know that the weight of tradition and history falls on the side of Xmas.  The new upsurge in spelling Christmas as Xmas is not a flight from the religious meaning of the holiday, but a return to more traditional and historic usage.  For more than 1700 years, even into the time of Colonial America, Xmas was a standard way to write the name of the day Christ was born.

For more information about Christmas Traditions

Related questions:

  • What is the Great Thurible?What is the Great Thurible? What is the Great Thurible? A – A long lost uncle by marriage that just left you wealthy. B – A Norse godling. C – A new super-hero with the ability to throw lighting bolts. D – None of […]
  • What is a born-again Christian?What is a born-again Christian? In one sense, being "born again" is something that nearly all Christians believe in. The phrase comes from the Gospel of John: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a […]
  • What is a megachurch?What is a megachurch? Although churches with a large membership and attendance are nothing new, the term "megachurch" has come to refer to something more than numbers, usually referring to a type of […]
  • What was the Burned-Over District of New York state?What was the Burned-Over District of New York state? Historians interested in innovative social organizations and offbeat religious movements would have difficulty finding places more interesting than western and central New York state […]
  • Which is the best English translation of the Bible?Which is the best English translation of the Bible? The Christian Bible has not only been translated to more languages than any other book, and it also has been translated to English more times than any other. Since very few people […]

  Need research? Quezi's researchers can answer your questions at

Written by | 4,238 views | Tags: , ,

No Comments

Comments are closed.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Privacy Policy | Acknowledgements