You don’t have to go far this time of year before you hear some­one bemoan­ing the demise of Chris­t­ian Christ­mas. You’ll hear such phras­es as “rea­son for the sea­son” and “put Christ back in Christ­mas”. One par­tic­u­lar com­plaint that seems to be com­mon is the use of “Xmas”.

The way Christ­mas defend­ers explain it, sec­u­lar soci­ety has den­i­grat­ed Christ­mas so much, they have even removed the word “Christ” from “Christ­mas” and replaced it with a gener­ic X.

Here’s why that’s false.

Xmas” has actu­al­ly been in use since the 1750s, and ear­li­er ver­sions of the phrase, such as “X’temmas” and “Xp̄es mæsse”, were used as ear­ly as 1551 and 1100.

A thou­sand years ago, the word “Christ” was often abbre­vi­at­ed as “Xp” or “Xt”, a nod to Χριστός, the Greek word for “Christ”. In fact, the terms “Xpi­an” and “Xtian” once stood for “Chris­t­ian” and “Xtian­i­ty” for “Chris­tian­i­ty”.

This abbre­vi­a­tion, of course, extend­ed to the word “Christ­mas”, as well as many oth­er words (and even names) with the word “Christ” in them.

So, in real­i­ty, “Xmas” has nev­er tak­en “Christ” out of “Christ­mas”. It’s kept it in. For cen­turies.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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