the Christ in Xmas

Xmas.  The abbreviation has been in use since the early times of Christianity.  The “-mas” part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for Mass, while the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός which comes into English as “Christ”.  The practice of using contractions for divine or sacred names (nomina sacrum) started sometime in the 1st Century AD although the exact date remains unknown.


Xp is an ancient abbreviation for Christ using the first two letters of the Greek word Χριστός, Chi-Rho.  It is still in wide use on sacred objects, banners, in architecture and vestments by Christian sects like the Eastern Orthodox (Orthodox Catholic) and western Catholic Churches.

Image: the Chi-Rho page from the the Book of Lindisfarne, an Irish monastic foundation (c. 634AD) on a tidal island off the north east coast of England also known just as Holy Island.

In the Latin Vulgate the verse is “[Christi (XPI) autem generatio sic erat cum esset desponsata mater eius Maria Ioseph] antequam convenirent inventa est in utero habens de Spiritu Sancto.”

[Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph], before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit…

As such, no one is actually taking “Christ” out of Christmas with Xmas.  They are using an ancient, pious, and scholarly form.  A disappointment to both Atheists and the far right.  How I love to happily snow in their righteous glass globes.  (I gifted this info to a knowledgeable, scholarly, Atheist, dear friend today for Xmas. So delightful.)

Merry Christmas and optimistic dreams of Peace on Earth



  • Irish Medieval History community
  • Xmas wiki

Chi-Rho wiki – Highly recommended, very interesting reading

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