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Where Does the Abbreviation Xmas Come From?

August 21, 2008

Since we began this business we have learned a lot about the tradition of Christmas and more than most people want to know about Christmas lights. For some reason I always assumed that the "x" in Xmas was an abbreviation for or represented the cross. I'm not sure what prompted me to investigate the matter further today but I decided I needed confirm my suspicions.

Not surprisingly, I was wrong (at least according to Wikipedia and a few other sources.) Fortunately, my theory isn't the only theory that is not correct. For example, another popular theory is that the "x" is an effort by the secular movement to "take the Christ out of Christmas." Others have claimed that the term "xmas" is modern and disrespectful abbreviation for Christmas. This turns out also not to be true.

It turns out that the terms xmas, xmas lights, xmas trees, and xmas day has nothing to do with secularization, crosses, or other similar theories. As it turns out, the answer is much less complicated. The use of the character "x" as an abbreviation for the word Christmas is as old as Christianity. The origins of this abbreviation are traced to the first letter in the Greek word for Christ which is "Chi." The Greek symbol for this letter is a character that very closely resemble an X. The word "Christ" was often abbreviated in Greek as XP or Xt.

As with many things we are naive to assume that the origins of words are the result of modern social values or experiences.