Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Xmas instead of Christmas?

I’ve heard people complain about the replacement of Christ with X in Christmas. There are many who misunderstand the origins of this practice, thinking it is an attempt to remove Christ from the center of the holiday. Of course, many seem to think the holiday itself was from its inception centered around Christ but that’s another story all-together.

I wonder how many people remember the historical account of the Emperor Constantine and how he decided to embrace Christianity. It goes something along the lines of this. You see the Emperor had this vision of sorts. It was probably not unlike anything many others have had but we tend to shy away from calling these things visions for fear of seeming insane. I wonder how many of the Emperor’s contemporaries thought he had lost a couple of those bricks making his load a bit incomplete. In any case, in this vision Mr. Constantine saw the Greek letters Chi and Rho intertwined.

The Greek Chi is written a bit like we write X whereas the Greek letter Rho looks like our P. Chi and Rho are the first two letters of the Greek word Christ, which means savior. XP is sometimes used to stand for Christ. Sometimes, X is used alone to mean Christ. This is the case where Chi replaces Christ in Christmas.

We English speakers and readers see X and don’t associate that with Chi. We read X-mas and have problems seeing the connection with Christ. Some Christians then mistakenly believe it is an effort to secularize the holiday.

Happy Xmas everyone!

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