Jordan Witt (@jordannwitt) asked me this question on Twitta:
“I think last year you told us the origin of the term Xmas but I’ve already forgotten. Would you mind informing twitter again?”
As you know, I love informing anyone of anything at any time, so here goes:
“Xmas” was a term created by Satan and John Lennon in 1969 to make you forget Christmas has anything to do with Jesus.
What? That’s not it, you say? You say it’s actually a term attested to as early as the 1500s, a time when trying to take the Jesus out of anything could *literally* get you murdered in a fire?
The letter X has long been an abbreviation for the word Christ, because the Greek word Χριστός starts with the letter chi, which looks like an X, even though it represents that phlegm-hocking sound you make when you say Chanukah or chutzpah correctly.
You can see the X as a symbol for Jesus all over the place. Look at basically any piece of Byzantine art and I *dare* you not to find the letters IC XC on there. I won’t go into explaining lunate sigmas &c. to you, but suffice it to say the X stands for Christ.
The chi-ro, a symbol made by combining the first two letters of the word Χριστός was the popular symbol of Christianity before the cross made a more marketable men’s earring.
Even in English, the X was used as an abbreviation for Christ prior to its use in the word Xmas, as far back as the 11th century AD. We are talking capital-O Old English. “Xtianity” is a spelling attested to as early as the 1600s.
“Xmas,” also spelled “Xtemas” if you go back far enough, has nothing to do with the secularization of Christmas and everything to do with English speakers’ love for abbrevs. Obvs.