What Is the X in Xmas?


Here’s a holiday surprise that only the dictionary can provide. Do you find the word “Xmas,” as an abbreviation for Christmas, offensive? Many people do.

You won’t find Xmas in church songbooks or even on many greeting cards. Xmas is popularly associated with a trend towards materialism, and sometimes the target of people who decry the emergence of general “holiday” observance instead of particular cultural and religious ritual.

But the history of the word “Xmas” is actually more respectable — and fascinating — than you might suspect. First of all, the abbreviation predates by centuries its use in gaudy advertisements. It was first used in the mid 1500s. X is the Greek letter “chi,” the initial letter in the word Χριστός. And here’s the kicker: Χριστός means “Christ.” X has been an acceptable representation of the word “Christ” for hundreds of years. This device is known as a Christogram. The mas in Xmas is the Old English word for “mass.”  (The thought-provoking etymology of “mass” can be found here.) In the same vein, the dignified terms Xpian and Xtian have been used in place of the word “Christian.”

As lovers of the alphabet, we are transfixed by the flexibility of “X.” The same letter can represent the sacred, the profane (“rated X”), and the unknown (“X-ray“). What does the “X” in Xbox stand for? Find out more about the 24th letter of the alphabet, here.

What other holiday-related words would you like to know more about? Let us know, below.

FSU gives students a peek at the past.(Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service November 9, 2001 | Mitchell, Tia The Florida State University Union Gallery has been converted into a time machine. Current students who visited the gallery this week have been able to see how students lived and what they lived through in the university’s 150-year history. floridastatecollegenow.com florida state college

The weeklong exhibit _ titled “Alumni: Celebrating 150 Years of Student Life” _ includes replicas of four dorm rooms, pictures and other memorabilia. It was unveiled earlier this week as part of the homecoming celebration at the university.

Diane Greer, who oversees the exhibit, said it allows current students to get a “peek at the past.” “We just wanted them to see the kinds of things students might have had in their rooms at the time,” said Greer, who is also director of cultural resources. “I think dorm life is part of the history of the university that tends to be ignored.” The four dorm rooms are decorated to reflect the eras they represent _ the 1880s, 1901, the 1940s and the 1960s. In 1851, the Florida General Assembly established the Seminary West of the Suwannee River. The institution became known as the Florida State College in 1901, and in 1905 the Legislature turned it into a females-only institution. In 1947, the Florida State College for Women became coeducational and was renamed Florida State University.

Sherill Ragans, associate vice president of student affairs, suggested replicating dorm rooms after seeing a similar display at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The exhibit not only shows how student life has evolved but also points out campus traditions and newsworthy events.

Copies of front pages of several issues of The New York Times are hung on the walls. The one closest to the door is a copy of the Sept. 12 issue, which has a picture of two smoking World Trade Center towers. Other copies displayed include coverage of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John Kennedy, as well as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Civil War-ending surrender.

“It’s designed to show how historical events _ both national and world events _ have shaped and influenced the lives of students at FSU and its predecessor institutions through the years,” said junior public relations student Emily Hawker, who is a member of the committee that produced the exhibit.

FSU alumna Kitty Hoffman, who will serve as one of the homecoming parade marshals, attended the opening reception Monday afternoon. Her story, told in the exhibit by a bucket of oranges, helps bring to life the university’s reputation for compassion for its students.

During the 1933-1934 school year, Hoffman was a sophomore at the Florida State College for Women. The nation was in the middle of the Great Depression, and Hoffman’s family didn’t have enough money for her to return that spring. here florida state college

“But I didn’t want to go home, so the college bought enough oranges from my father to pay my expenses for the rest of the school year,” she said.

Hoffman said she is not the only student who benefited from this compassion.

“We thought maybe somebody got through on sweet potatoes,” she said. “And it was suspected somebody got through on collard greens.” After FSU’s homecoming this weekend, the display will be on exhibit in the Student Life Building for six months.

___ KRT SOUTH is a premium service of Knight Ridder/Tribune Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

_____ PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

_____ PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

Mitchell, Tia


  1. Maggie Barnes -  February 13, 2014 - 12:51 pm

    I was brought up in the Lutheran (Dad’s side) and Baptist (Mom’s side) Christian churches. I believe in Christ’s teachings of loving kindness and forgiveness.

    As I grew older, I realized that the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament (the Christian Bible) are totally different in philosophy, which makes them totally different religions.

    The Old Testament is filled with anger, vengeance, and retribution, and with a “jealous” God. The New Testament is filled with love, tolerance, kindness, HUMILITY, and forgiveness, and with a God of Grace. What they teach are completely opposite.

    Christ said he came to “free us from the law” – the religion of the Old Testament – and that if we truly, in our hearts AND in our actions, loved our neighbors as we loved ourselves, and we loved all of God’s creation and lived lives that demonstrated this, then we could not sin. Of course we do sin because we cannot completely live up to this ideal. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a theme in ALL religions. We speak it and claim it, but we do not LIVE it.

    It is the same with Christianity. We speak it and claim it, but we do not LIVE it. We judge others; we speak angrily and in condemnation. We blasphemously claim to know what God “thinks” (what hubris!) and use OUR opinions of that to bash others over the head – the exact opposite of what Christ instructed us to do.

    After reading boards like this, and seeing people who call themselves Christian, I am appalled. I don’t want to lump myself in with angry, hurtful groups of people who are behaving toward others exactly the opposite way from the way the Christ instructed Christians to behave. If something is wrong, then even a group or a multitude calling it right, does not MAKE it right. You make your statement by choosing to be a part of a group/multitude like that, or not.

    Angry, hate-filled speech is not redeemed by a “blessings” or “pray for you” added on at the bottom to try to make the speech seem other than what it really is, and it does not draw people toward Christ, but actually repels good, kind, loving people away from Christ – if they think that is what His people are like.

    We need to remember and consider what picture our words and actions present to others. Christianity must not be used as an excuse to vent our own personal anger and hatred on others. If it isn’t REAL love, kindness, forgiveness, and tolerance, from deep in our hearts, AND expressed in our actions and our speech, then it is NOT Christian at all. SAYING you are Christian does not ‘make it so’ – you have to SHOW it by behaving and living like a follower of Christ’s teachings.

    Maggie Barnes

  2. GrannyTenderstone -  January 12, 2014 - 8:52 pm

    Dear ” BigFatWhiteGuyInRedCoatWithWhiteBeard – January 10, 2014 – 10:07 am ”

    I DEMAND that you show me SCIENTIFIC PROOF that there is NO GOD as you claim. You can’t do it!! So stop being hateful toward those who KNOW God and get over yourself. I don’t put down your atheism or anybody elses, and DON’T INSULT OR PRACTICE THIS SORT OF BIGOTRY AGAINST the KNOWING of others. I don’t “believe”, I KNOW FOR SURE, and if you think you can prove in a lab that God doesn’t exist, HAVE AT IT. You also CANNOT PROVE IN A TESTTUBE THAT LOVE EXISTS, but you’d be considered a total idiot if you were to say so. GOD AND LOVE are the same freaking thing, but if you choose to HATE, you’ll never understand that, so I hereby BLESS YOU WITH ENLIGHTENMENT you currently lack, and you don’t have to convert to any faith at all, you just have to stop being a bigot. THAT IS ALL.

  3. luna -  January 11, 2014 - 9:48 pm

    ΛИD И♡Ƭ ƐѴƐŔY♡ИƐ ĪS ƇĤĪSƬĪΛИ!ᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ɪᴍ ᴘᴀɢᴀɴ ᴀɴᴅ ɪᴛ ɪs ᴀ ʀᴇʟɪɢɪon!!!NOW SHUT UP! ☥ ☧ ☪ ☫ ☬ ☭ ☯ .DEAL WITH IT

  4. BigFatWhiteGuyInRedCoatWithWhiteBeard -  January 10, 2014 - 10:07 am

    You are ignorant. If there were to be a God where might he be? Why is he sitting back watching his “children” die? Why does he not intervene in the affairs of man? Is he afraid he will lose our faith? Pfft. He needs to step up and fulfil his duties and keep man from destroying themselves. And if there were a God, who knows if it isn’t a dog? Because God is dog spelled backwards….MIND=BLOWN.
    You are correct except the Santa part. My father is Santa. Because Santa is a giver, correct? My father GAVE sperm to my mother. My father GIVES child-support. I’d say that is very much like Saint Nick. Plus, he is big and has a big beard….although it isn’t white yet, it is big.


  5. guidedAuspex -  January 1, 2014 - 3:13 am


    Please be joking.

    1. No one worships Santa. Santa is fictional. Most people over 10 know that.

    2. Jesus was Jewish. He was born in Jerusalem. He was not an Anglo-Saxon.

    3. Pagan is not a religion.

    4. There is no such thing as an “Ala”. There’s an “Allah”, however, which is simply the Arabic word for “God”.

  6. binaryStep -  January 1, 2014 - 3:07 am

    Also, there are lots of other places that support life besides Earth. They just don’t have oxygen and stuff that we humans would need to survive.

  7. binaryStep -  January 1, 2014 - 3:06 am

    @wolf tamer and tree puncher

    You DO know “Holiday” means “Holy day”, right? So you are celebrating “Holiday” when you celebrate a holy day.

  8. Maxine -  December 28, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    Well, due to the fact that there are other people who need to be considered, you Christians should acknowledge the fact you aren’t the only religion in the world or even America. Religion shouldn’t be apart of school, unless its a history thing and it teaches about other religions too. God shouldn’t be apart of our pledge because there are many who believe in multiple Gods or none at all. Religion is something you keep at home. Having festival or something is cool, if you’re Christian be proud and show it but don’t force it on the rest of the world. You can keep the Christ in Christmas, because, Plot Twist: Jesus wasn’t even born on Christmas and there is nothing to point to that “fact” and celebrations around December were apart of cultures before Christianity even started (Gasp big surprise, Christianity wasn’t the first religion.). Keep it to your own lives, keep it out of schools and teachings and keep it out of government. (I’m not saying you can’t pray in school, or wear a cross or whatever, just don’t force others to do it.)

  9. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 25, 2013 - 11:48 pm

    Merry Christmas/Xmas everybody, and Happy New Year! BTW, when people say “Happy Holidays” to me, I reply, “Merry Christmas.” I don’t celebrate “Holiday”–I celebrate the birth of the Risen Son of God, Jesus Christ.

    @Black Equine:
    Actually, Christianity began with the birth of Jesus, so it’s not really the oldest religion. But since it’s about 2016 years old, it’s still pretty old. (Jesus was likely born around 3 B.C.) Thank you so much for your comments! God bless you!

    We don’t really know when Jesus was born, but it was probably around springtime. But we couldn’t have it overlapping with Easter. And some early bishops or cardinals or whoever they were decided that we would celebrate on December 25, which would coincide with a pagan holiday to help introduce those people to Christianity. It’s true that Jesus Christ was not His real name–Jesus is the modern equivalent, and Christ is His title, a Greek word meaning “Savior” (the Hebrew equivalent was “Messiah”). It’s also true that the 12 apostles were His closest friends. The Bible (inspired by God) _does_ have something to say about homosexuals (look in the first chapters of Genesis, and around the middle of Leviticus. God specifically says that homosexuality is a sin). Who cares whether He was white or not? Of course He wasn’t. And, just because Christianity is a fairly new religion, doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Our forefathers did not come down from heaven or anything; God formed Adam (the first man) from the dust of the earth, and Eve (the first woman) from one of Adam’s ribs. No other place in the universe is suited to life, and even if it was, anyone coming to Earth would be dead by the time they got here because it would take so long to get to Earth.

    All these comments make me sad. I should have known this would turn into a debate about religion. :( *sigh* Oh well. I guess there’s not much I can do except pray for y’all. (Which I will certainly do!)

  10. Xian -  December 24, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    To the Atheists and the offended: I’m sorry that among the responses by Christians there is so much misdirected energy. I’m sorry if you feel barfed on; they didn’t learn that from Yeshua/Iesus/Isa/Jesus/Yesu, who, by the way, is less mythical than you may think.

    To the Christians and the offended: remember Shaul/Paulos’ letter to the ekklessia at Thessalonika: “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” You shouldn’t surprised by people’s offense at the Anointed One. It started as soon as he went public. He warned you that it would happen to you, too. Don’t make things worse by acting the martyr or conforming to their pattern of behavior.

    Dictionary.com is not part of a conspiracy; they’re doing business, which includes writing on interesting topics to retain readership. It’s just unfortunate that people feel the need to take everything personally and attack each other.

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