The History of the ‘X-Mas’ Abbreviation Is Actually Deeply Christian

Though the demand for “more Christ in Christmas” seems to be losing momentum, most evangelicals still believe the holiday—and its seasonal greetings—should more explicitly reference the Savior.

Overall, the number of Americans who say Christmas should be more about Jesus has dropped from 79 percent in 2014 to 65 percent in 2018, according to LifeWay Research.

“Saying Christmas should be more about Jesus is a little like saying Thanksgiving should be more about giving thanks. It’s in the name of the holiday,” said Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research’s executive director. “Yet, it appears there is less cultural expectation for celebrations of the Christmas holiday to include the religious aspect.”

American nones and those of other faiths account for the bulk of the shift. In LifeWay’s 2014 report, 63 percent of members of non-Christian faiths and nearly half of the country’s nones (46%) said Christmas should be more about Jesus. Four years later, those percentages dropped to 35 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Even Christians are slightly less likely to want to see a greater emphasis on Jesus, with 8 in 10 agreeing this year compared to 9 in 10 in 2014. But nearly all evangelicals by belief, 97 percent, still insist on more Jesus.

A majority of evangelicals (65%) say they take offense when someone says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” though fewer than half of Christians (42%) and a third of Americans (32%) agree.

Over the years, LifeWay found the abbreviation “X-mas” to be just as controversial as “Happy holidays” or more, with 42 percent of Christians and 33 percent of Americans saying it was offensive in this year’s survey. Nearly 6 in 10 of those with evangelical beliefs (59%) find the use of “X-mas” instead of Christmas offensive.

The great irony in the distaste for the term “X-mas” is that it is thoroughly Christian, rather than an effort to remove the word Christ from the holiday.

The “X” in X-mas is not really an “X” at all. It’s chi, the Greek letter at the start of the word Christ, or Christos (Χριστός). Since the earliest era of political Christendom, “X” has been used as a shorthand for Christ, as LifeWay’s own Facts & Trends pointed out.

Constantine, the first emperor to convert to Christianity and whose Edict of Milan sought to free Christians from persecution, instructed his soldiers to inscribe the letter on their shields before the landmark Battle of Milvian Bridge. The chi “X” was paired with “P,” representing the Greek letter rho, the first two letters of and a signifier for the name Christ. Legend has it, the chi rho symbol came to Constantine in a vision.

Using “X” as an abbreviation for Christ is also thought to have appeared in many Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

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Source: Christianity Today