Believe it or not, we now are just winding down in the Christmas Season! For us as Catholics, the Christmas season does not end until the evening of the Baptism of the Lord. This year, that would be the end of this weekend, Sunday January 10th as we hear about our Lord’s baptism in the Jordan by John, and as Jesus begins his public ministry.
As a side note, this past week my own family (brothers and sisters) got together to celebrate our family Christmas. It was a great time to rekindle our familial relationships. Before this happened, over the course of our e-mails in December, we were trying to decide on which day we would gather. One of my older brothers made, what some might regard as the “awful” mistake of abbreviating “Christmas” with the word, “X-mas.” As family bantering tends to go, this poor brother of mine was chastised by another member of my family for leaving the word “Christ” out of Christmas.
Of course, me being a priest and having a type ‘A’ personality, I just couldn’t let this one go. I just had to respond to inform all my siblings of the history of such an abbreviation. And, just in case you have been questioned or chastised like one of my siblings for doing the same, my hope is that this might help you to better understand the use and the history of the word, “X-mas” as well. So, here it goes:
The use of “X” for X-mas (Christmas) started way back in the 16th century and was never meant to be a secular abbreviation to take “Christ” out of Christmas, as some modern people may think. The Greek letter for “C” is “X,” the first letter for Christ. Often, but not always, it is also surmounted with the Greek letter “P” which in English is the “r” in Christ as in the Greek, “Xpiostos.” Thus you would have an X with a P superimposed on top. You should know that the Greek language is one of the first and original languages used to translate the New Testament! The Greek letter “X” then has often been used as a symbol for Christ and this dates back to over 1000 years! You can see this “Chi”-X and “Rho”-P symbol in all the ancient churches of Europe and the middle East, and I dare say including some Protestant churches. “X”-mas is and has been and should always continue to be a tribute to the original Greek language in which the Scriptures were written.
This is essentially the e-mail I returned to my siblings…I hope no one took offense. So, before it’s too late and as our Christmas season comes to an end I would like to wish all of you a, “Merry X-mas” or “Merry Christmas,” whichever you prefer as appropriate. Either way, the message is the same: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will onto all whom God’s favor rests!” (Lk 2:14f) “For God so loved the world…” (Jn. 3:16f)
BTW (abbrev. for “By The Way”) , I hope this demonstrates our need to know both our modern day cultural understanding and the important history of our Catholic Faith in Christ!