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The origin of ‘Xmas’

A recently restored ancient Greek painting of the Madonna and Child. Photo courtesy of

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

I have always abbreviated the word Christmas as “Xmas.”

Someone asked me the other day why I do that, and I couldn’t give any better answer than, “because my Mom did.”

I knew that there was a “real” reason for our doing this, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what it was.

So I looked it up, and, now I remember.

The word Christmas comes from “Christ-Mass,” referring to the Roman Catholic church service that celebrated the birth of Jesus.

Some people might not think it “kosher” to call Christmas “Xmas-” as it seems to take the “Christ’” out of Christmas. 

Ah, but, no.

It’s more than an abbreviation.

There is actual historical and religious significance to the word.

The early Christian church was often persecuted and to protect themselves, Christians had to use symbols to identify themselves to each other.

In the Greek alphabet, the letter that looks like an X is the Greek letter “chi.”

It’s pronounced “Kye” (rhymes with eye) and is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ – “Christos.”

They used the first two letters of “Christos” in the Greek alphabet – which are “chi” and “rho” – to create a symbol to represent the name of Jesus. 

This looks like an “X” with a “P” placed on top.

The term Xmas is an abbreviation with a religious meaning and a historical background.

The X is an abbreviation of Christ, to which people added “mas” referring to the holy mass said to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

As to the pronunciation of the term –  even though it is written, “Xmas,” it should always be properly pronounced “Christmas,” never “Exmas.”

So, I wish a Merry Xmas to all in this beautiful season of joy and love.

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