“Keep the Christ in Christmas” is a war cry for numerous Christian movements throughout America as purists remind the rest of the nation that the actual holiday celebrates Christ’s birth and not a jolly old plump man parading around the world in a sled powered by reindeer bringing gifts to kids.
One such target has been the use of the written expression Xmas versus the full word for Christmas.
They suggest that replacing the word Christ for the letter X is disrespectful and an attempt to remove Christ from the holiday.
In the past, activists have targeted everything from television stations to greeting card companies and numerous ministers and Evangelical leaders have called on their faithful to never use the “Xmas” variation.
Franklin Graham, one of the nation’s foremost Christian Evangelicals summed it up like this:
For us as Christians, Christmas is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ.
A lot of people disapprove of it because they automatically think of it as blasphemous because they think the X stands for anonymity. They argue that using Xmas takes the “Christ” out of Christmas and is a non-religious way of saying Christmas.
But does Xmas really take the Christ out of Christmas?
Historically speaking— no. On the contrary, it is keeping him in quite accurately.
It all began with Constantine the Great who popularized a sort of shorthand for Christ. According to Christian history, on the night before an important battle, Constantine had a vision from God that led him to create a military banner emblazoned with the first two letters of Christ— chi and rho (or X and P in Greek).
The emblem looked something like this:
These two letters eventually became a sort of shorthand for Jesus Christ and impressions of this symbol began appearing on books, shields, flags and elsewhere.
Around 1021 the first appearance of XPmas appeared when an Anglo-Saxon scribe want dot save space on the expensive parchment paper he was using to write on.
The use of XPmas spread throughout the Western World as a result— not to rid the name of Christ from the word Christmas but as a way of saving space in books, banners and other Christian books, emblems and banners.
To be fair to XPmas and its later iteration of Xmas, Christians have used such shorter abbreviations for the same reasons of saving space, or creating a sort of an imprint or a mark. One of the most famous of such abbreviations is ΙΧΘΥΣ, which early Christians used to abbreviate “Jesus Christ Son of God and Savior.”
Eventually, Xmas started spreading on cards and banners, in department stores and on television.
Add the religious and cultural wars between the American left and right and you have a full-blown “war on Christmas” with the letter X (which actually and accurately symbolizes Christ) playing a front and center role.