This post was originally published last Christmas, I’ve decided to republish it again this year a few days before Christmas.
A modern misconception understands the “X” in “X-mas” as a supplanting of Christ by, literally, crossing him out of the season which – we may say – used to bear his name. I say “misconception” because I came to learn recently that the “X” in “X-mas” has very early Christian roots.
Some Greek and the “X” of History
The name of Christ in biblical Greek is spelt (transliterated) something like this: Christus (Xpistos) (see chart). The first letter, “X“, is Chi (promounced something like “he” – spat like a cat while you say it and you’ll be close).
The “X” was used as an abbreviation for “Christ” in early Christian thought. The first obvious example which comes to mind is the “Jesus Fish” acronym, spelt something like I.X.TH.U.S (see chart). Many people don’t know about the acronym, but that doesn’t stop anyone from sticking them on the bumper of their cars.
The second example is the ancient Christian symbol still in use, mostly in the Orthodox tradition, which combines the “X” with the “P” (rho), to abbreviate “Christ” (again, see chart).
When the ancient abbreviation for Christ, “X“, is married to the ancient Latin Church word “mass“, the end result is “X-mas” or, as we say today, Christmas.
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. – An Angel