The other day Gemma asked whether people liked the abbreviation “Xmas” my natural reaction was that I didn’t, but I have no idea why – so I thought I better find out the back story of Xmas. As a child I don’t remember anyone talking about the abbreviation as good or bad but I do remember seeing it on Christmas cards. So I decided I had better find out a bit more about the history of Xmas.
According to Wikipedia the prefix “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is written as 𝛸 (that looks like a normal X). The suffix “mas” is an abbreviation for mass (a church service).
There are examples of the use of the term Xmas going back to the 16th century, historic authors including Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll used the term. While the BBC reports use in Anglo Saxon Chronicle in 1021, suggesting it would be a parchment saver… Indeed, the use of Chi as part of an abbreviation for Christ goes back to the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 300s.
So Xmas is a well established term, we can each choose whether we like it or now, but now when I see it I will remember it is steeped in history.