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Dec 12 2012   1:38AM GMT

Christmas vs. Xmas

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
There are a lot of holidays in December, not just ______ but also Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year, Santa Lucia Day and sometimes Ramadan.
a. Xmas
b. Christmas

Answer: b

Explanation:
Most style guides discourage the use of Xmas, probably because many people find it offensive.

In fact, Xmas is a variation on Christmas that has deep roots. From Wikipedia:

 Early use of “Xmas” includes Bernard Ward’s History of St. Edmund’s college, Old Hall (originally published circa 1755).[9] An earlier version, “X’temmas”, dates to 1551.[9] Around 1100 the term was written as “Xp̄es mæsse” in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.[2] “Xmas” is found in a letter from George Woodward in 1753.[10] Lord Byron used the term in 1811,[11] as did Samuel Coleridge (1801)[5] and Lewis Carroll (1864).[11]

Many Christians object to Xmas because they believe it removes Christ’s name from the word. However,  According to the OED, the use of the letter X to refer to Christ goes back to 1485.

In any case, however, let’s maintain the peace this season by refraining from using Xmas.

****

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27  Comments on this Post

 
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  • AuntieD
    I only abbreviate it when I need to type quickly
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  • kosh66
    Languages evolve which often grammar police tend not to accept. Xmas is slowly but inextricably creeping in as accepted. Especially given that services such as twitter limit character number, hence Xmas saves on that 140 characters.  
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  • padillah
    I disagree with this completely.To suggest that we not use a perfectly acceptable word simply because others are not educated to it's origins is not only defeatist but flies in the face of this article.
    Isn't the point of this to educate people? Yet here you'd rather bow to some imagined social pressure than inform.

    I am disappointed.
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  • BeazBall

    I'll agree with a previous poster.

    Why not say, "While some might discourage the use of one or the other, BOTH ARE ACCEPTABLE, because they mean the same thing, historically."?

    One is merely a transcription convention adopted for handwriting efficiency.

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  • JohnnyM
    padillah - you are mistaken in the way you have written the possesive form of "it" (as in "it's origins") - there shouldn't be an apostrophe when using this pronoun ... oh, the irony!
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  • bobsheidler
    "There ARE a lot..."? WTF? Either "...are lots" or "...is a lot" please.
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  • kuadlet
    I think you'll find the use of X to refer to Christ dates from the 1st century AD. It's as old as Christianity itself.
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  • padillah
    JohnnyM thanks for the thinly veiled contempt but that was a simple auto-correct mishap. I can fix that by paying attention to what I'm typing. You'll always be a putz. 
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  • k337lee
    X also stands for the Greek letter "chi" -- roughly pronounced "he". In Greek, "Xristos", means Christ.
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  • Anonymous2468
    The X in Xmas stands for the Greek word for Christ (Χριστός).
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  • Mitchells365
    Christmas is more formal while Xmas is informal, so technically the correct one would be Christmas, but the author sounds incredibly biased...
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  • Gibby1
    Thank you for treating the two forms of Christmas and Xmas as well as you did. Whatever anyof the comments say, there are millions of Christians in the western world that are offended by the use of Xmas.It seems to cross out Christ' Name as though He had no part in this festive season, even though it was He Who gave it to us in the first place. Just because we don't make a song and dance about it, {except for carols!} and hold militant marches up and down the streets, doesn't make our sadness over this any the less real.  This is surely a time of kindness to each other, and all over the world millions of Christians are having the worst of times, so how about a little more goodwill and maybe even thank the One Who started all this as we enter our precious festivities in a freedom that cannot be bought.  Happy Christmas to one and all!.
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  • RickPatterson
    X is not the English X.  It's the Greek CHI, which means it's more or less an abbreviation of CHRIST.  So there's no need to get upset about it at all.  On a related note, legend has it that Constantine had his troops paint XP on their shields after dreaming of that symbol in the sky.  The next day he won the Battle of Milvian Ridge.  It had nothing to do with Microsoft.  The standard advice to fundamentalists of any kind applies: get more educated and you get less offended.

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  • Kinkiac
    @Gibby1 - No, HE did not give you Xmas.  Xmas was being celebrated long before Christ.  It is the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  The Catholic church, like its done with most PAGAN holidays that were celebrated for generations before Christ, simply renamed it so it would seem familiar to those pagans whom the Catholic church was at one point desperately trying to convert(or kill).  The symbols we use today, are mostly pagan.  The same thing goes for Easter, which is not a celebration of the rebirth of Christ as the Catholic would have you believe, but in reality is again, a pagan celebration of the Goddess ISHTAR, aka Astarte, aka Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sex.  Her symbols are the hare and the egg, her time is spring and her theme is birth and rebirth and the mating season, aka Spring. There is very little about Xmas or Easter that has anything to do with Christ or the bible, other than that which was assigned by the Catholic church when it decided to take another religions holidays and use them as its own.  
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  • arniesnarb
    If self-proclaimed Christians  want to take offence at "Xmas" and thereby announce their ignorance to the world, that's their business. It's a Greek letter chi, for godsake (so to speak).

    Little-known trivia that might be worth getting offended by: Windows XP is named for the monogram of Christ: XP is Greek Chi-Rho (first two letters of CH-R-I-S-T-O-S), and also a pun on "Cairo" (the city in Egypt), which was the original code name for the operating system when it was in development. I like to think of it as "the operating system that thinks it's the Lord's annointed"--which pretty much sums up Microsoft's attitude towards itself.
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  • BlaineInagaki
    First off, people below have (or above?) have pointed out it's Greek reference regarding the use of 'X'.

    But it can always be a reference to the cross, which Jesus died upon.

    Also, I am a Christian, and while I observe Christmas, I don't consider it at all to be bibilically related. It was afterall invented by the Catholic Church to draw in new converts. It takes place during the time the Pagan celebration of Saturnalia takes place. Which was the other largely populated 'religion' at the time of Christmas' origin. (also Christmas is short for Christ's Mass for those who didn't know).
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  • wordsnob
    The Greek letter "chi" looks like an X.  This letter is used to represent Christ or Christos (using Greek letters).  It is a "chi", not an "eks", in Xmas.
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  • sdterp

    I agree with padillah, this is just bad advice.  Placating ignorance isn't helping anyone.   

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  • trlkly
    Correct, but you did not cover all the reasons. The main  reason is that you spelled out all the other holidays, so using an abbreviation for Christmas would be bad style.

    It is however true that the use of Xmas would be offensive to some, and should probably be avoided in Business English.
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  • Buster1978
    I think some people who object to Xmas are doing so for a knee-jerk reason, however there is a grain of truth in the perceived reality that Christmas is being de-Christed (feel free to pick at the grammar in that word :) ) and so the pressure from various Church bodies to avoid the use of Xmas is linked to the campaign to keep Christ at the heart of Christmas. I never use Christmas for this reason but I am not offended by Xmas.
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  • Shannon64
    There are many of us that celebrate secular Xmas, not being religious. Being as Xmas was stolen from my ancestors, maybe I'm the one offended by the use of Christmas. Ever think of that? 
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  • AstraLass
    Shannon64, you are rocking the Pagan ideal and I for one appreciate
    your view!  Anyway, these people need to get a life if x is that offensive. I would think children starving or animal abuse is more deserving of our time and energy. As a matter of fact...
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  • bobsheidler
    Face it. For at least the last century, the holiday, at least in the western world, has been an almost entirely secular holiday, which is why most non-Christian have no problem with its observation.
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  • JMFrosch
    Santa Lucia Day?
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  • Robster
    Lazy-mas?
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  • jfgadgetguy
    Interesting, but your sentence is incorrect. Diwali falls in October or November
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  • Glendan
    I agree with BeazBall's sentiment, but must make one small correction:  Xmas was not adopted for handwriting efficiency; it was adopted because early Christians considered it blasphemous to write out the "Christ," believing that it was too holy.  This is why, for example, in the church we see the letters "IHS," which is an abbreviation of "Ihesus"—or Jesus, because it was proscribed to write the full form.  This is a proscription that was inherited from Judaism, and there are still Jews today who will write of "G-d."  The words written this way was refered to as the nomina sacra; other examples include dmn = Dominus, ds = Deus, ihs = I(h)esus, xr or xrs = Christus, mr = Maria, among others. 
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