Debunk the ‘Xmas’ myth: This common phrase doesn’t take God out of the holiday

By Emma Weidmann | Arts and Life Editor

Just in time for the holidays, let’s put a wrap on this old myth. Have you ever heard people say that using the phrase “Xmas” takes Christ out of Christmas?

It’s time to bury the idea that the common way of shortening the word Christmas as Xmas is somehow offensive. This way of spelling Christmas does not have secular roots as many suggest, and it does not take Christ out of Christmas.

Anyone who has experience with Greek Life or has ever seen a sorority girl walking on campus in her jersey will recognize the letter “X” as the Greek letter found in sororities such as Chi Omega (XΩ) and fraternities such as Sigma Chi (ΣX). On that, we can all see that in Greek, the letter X makes a sound similar to a K or a Ch.

Further, how is the name Christ spelled in Greek? The Greeks spell it “Χριστός.” There’s the letter X again, and in this word, it stands in for the Ch in the English spelling of Christ. So, Xmas is essentially a shortening of Christmas, and the X stands in for the Greek spelling of Christ. It’s a shorthand.

In case you still aren’t convinced that this doesn’t have a secular meaning, the word has a long history of being spelled this way. Vox reports that poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge used the spelling in an 1801 letter, and The Guardian reports that the phrase “xmassing” was used in a newspaper in 1884.

Those were times in the Christian West that, under King William IV and Queen Victoria, were anything but secular. If it was acceptable then, it probably wasn’t an affront to Christianity or an attempt to scrub Jesus from the holiday.

That impression of Xmas is likely the result of the 20th century tendency to pick culture wars. Even now, it seems like people on every side of the aisle are very fast to find some way to alienate the other side.

Everybody feels like their ideology is under attack these days. Conservatives feel like their values are being destroyed by the left, and liberals feel like conservatism is trying to drag present-day people into the past. Modern Christians in America are especially likely to jump on something like this in order to prove that war is being waged against the religion. In some ways, it is. But in the case of Xmas and the divisive red Starbucks cup debacle, that’s looking for a war where there is none.

The important thing is to look at facts and the actual history behind typical talking points like these before picking a fight and ending up on the naughty list.