Maybe We Shouldn’t Use Xmas But Not For The Reason You Think

Every December, there is much debate over the “War on Christmas.” And while many barbs are passed back and forth over “happy holidays” and “the reason for the season,” one of the more popular notions is that when Xmas is used in place of Christmas, it is an attempt to remove Christ from the holiday.

Of course, progressive Christians, and really any historians, are quick to point that Christ is based on the Greek word “Χριστός” so the “X” in Xmas is just a shortened form of Christ. They go on to talk about the history of its use, and the debate usually ends there.

However, I think there is an argument against using Xmas or at least a discussion. The Greek word for messiah (technically “anointed”) seems a strange choice for this particular savior. Greek is not what Jesus of Nazareth spoke (the scholarly consensus is he spoke Aramaic) and not the language of the vast majority of the Old Testament (mostly Hebrew). Greek was the language of his oppressor, the victor, the language of the Roman empire. Rome sentenced Jesus to death for crimes against the state. Rome sought to destroy the Jewish people — people Jesus may have known — around the same time the first gospel was being written (70 CE). Rome was not some happy-go-lucky experience for the Jewish people, Jesus of Nazareth, or early Christians, yet Rome essentially named Jesus and the religion, and Xmas is a stark reminder of this fact.

Of course, the English, “Christ,” is rooted in the Greek word so perhaps there is nothing more to be debated on Xmas versus Christmas. But I wonder what it says about Christianity. Does it speak to Jesus’ ministry of loving everyone by turning the other cheek and giving away our shirt when our coat is stolen? Or does it illustrate how quickly we lost sight of who Jesus really was on the quest to reach more people and within a few hundred years, become Rome’s state religion?

About the writer: Alex Iwashyna went from an undergraduate degree in political philosophy to a medical doctor to a stay-at-home mom, writer and Christian by 30. Five years later, she spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog, except when it’s serious, about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.

Review & Commentary

  • Chara

    I always find this discussion so interesting! My dad studied koine Greek (common Greek) in seminary. The bulk of the New Testament was written in this koine/common Greek since by then the Roman empire had taken over Greece. Most of the people at that time were not speaking Hebrew any more but this common Greek. Anyhoo! I’m a geek in this area because my name Chara Irana is koine Greek from the New Testament meaning Joy and Peace (my sister is Charis Alathia meaning Grace and Truth). So, the “X” mentioned is fine (as you said for the above reason) and that is also why the Greek is acceptable. Here’s a cool link to some more info:

  • NGPM

    Should the entire world use the Syriac liturgy (which contains Aramaic), then? I have to think that if Christ was a Jew, spoke Aramaic and came into the Greco-Roman world and His story was transcribed in Greek, this must all have been for a reason. So, too, must the Crucifix and the Chi-Rho have deep meaning if these symbols could be so quickly adopted and so long-lasting. (Although, many classical historiographers from Augustine and beyond have speculated much more eloquently than I ever could on these points, so I’ll spare ye.) Not that longevity is always by itself justification for holding on to something, but it should make us think before casting it aside.

    But regarding the “Xmas” controversy, if one grants that Our Lord should be called Christ, the real reason it is held that “Xmas” should be avoided is the tacky abbreviation of Christ’s name. It is one thing to use a graphical abbreviation “XP” (Chi-Rho, the first two letters in the Greek transliteration of Christos) as a symbol in artwork, but quite another to use a textual abbreviation in a quip, jingle or broadsheet (it reduces Christ to a brand name that can be used in commercial quips, like KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken).

    Just some thoughts. Merry Christmas as this is still the 12th day (Epiphany tomorrow!).