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The Curious Prevalence of "Merry Xmas"

Updated on December 17, 2014

What X-actly is driving this trend?

The email arrived in my Inbox this afternoon, right around the time that thoughts of spreadsheets, conference calls and deadlines gave way to Santa Claus, Eggnog and 40% off all last minute orders placed on Amazon.com. Yes, at 3:06 PM on the last work day before Christmas, an email succinctly titled "X-MAS" arrived from a friend of mine so I of course took a moment to read it.

Inside was a beautifully written note in which the young woman who authored it expressed her gratitude for everyone's friendship as well as her wishes for everyone to enjoy a blessed Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year. Yet the title of this email hung conspicuously in the air, like withered mistletoe or the mistimed kick of a Rockette unable to keep time with her leggy counterparts.

Xmas....when and how did this innocuous substitute term become so casually commonplace?

Growing up in my house, the word Xmas would have been met with the same enthusiasm as a visit from Santa that yielded a wrapped and bowed bottle of Listerene under the painstakingly tinseled tree. That hasn't changed. I cannot envision a scenario in which that would change. Yet many people I encounter and know on a personal level seem to give very little thought to this trend.

If one were to examine the other Holidays, nowhere else has this change been enacted. I have never once heard anyone wish a friend or family member either verbally or in written form "Happy X-giving". Religion must be at the crux of it then, right? Well not so fast. St Patrick's Day and for that matter (St.) Valentine's Day have both successfully dodged the dreaded "X", only adding to the mystery.

A Google Search on this topic might surprise you. There are many - Christians among them - that fervently defend the use of Xmas as a suitable replacement for Christmas. Many of course counter with the argument that this is the secular world's attempt to literally take "Christ" out of Christmas. Rather than getting bogged down with the semantics of the matter, the intentions of those who opt for the use of Xmas is a far more interesting discussion. It is my theory that those who use the term Xmas fall into one of three categories. Those categories are as follows:

The Atheists - to many reading this article, Atheists are like Bigfoot, 8 carat purple diamond rings or people who don't like pizza. They hear vague rumors of them, perhaps through friends or family members, so they tend to believe that they may exist even though they have never met one. The fact is that atheism is growing at a 5 fold pace in the United States according to a recent study. These numbers are rather murky however in that oftentimes those who "do not believe in God" or "are not religious" do not necessarily consider themselves atheists in the truest sense of the word, however they are bucketed in the category nonetheless. But the fact is there is a "growing disbelief" for lack of a more all-encompassing term in this country when the topic turns to religion.

Those traveling through the Lincoln Tunnel this Christmas Season might have noticed a billboard which read "More Merry, Less Myth".....or something to that effect (like many others who cherish their lives, I don't take my eyes off the road for terribly long when traveling Southbound on 9th Ave in mid-December). But like snow shovels in January and bikinis in June, the business of Atheism undoubtedly has a certain ebb and flow to the seasonality of it all, and recruits would logically be most ripe as we approach the date of the "Myth". But a little more logic would leave one asking, "if Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ and non-believers in this event are still eager to be "merry", what is the source of their desire for merriment? An Atheist looking for a reason to ratchet up the merry factor on Christmas has the odd feel of a wedding without a bride or a housewarming party being held in a hotel room. So at the risk of digressing any further, I do believe that it's safe to assume that Atheists are among those who promote the use of the term "Merry Xmas".

The Abbreviators - the Abbreviators were a body of writers in the papal chancery whose business was to sketch out and prepare in due form the Pope's bills, briefs and consistorial decrees before they were written out in extenso by the scriptores.

I'm not talking about them.

I refer instead to those who look at the others among us who actually spell words out in their entirety and simply LOL, perhaps maybe even choosing to ROTFLMAO, or in some all-too-common cases exclaim WTF?!? The abbreviators wear their truncated creativity like a medal of honor, and if you are unable to RBTL without engaging in the proliferation of TMI while expressing your POV, you will most likely be SOL with this crowd. Although many abbreviators undoubtedly believe that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all mankind, this does not change their POV on the matter. IMHO however, I believe that typing the extra 5 letters is the LTCD......TTFN and TTYL.

The Politically Correct - Much has been written on the topic of political correctness, so much that I doubt I would have anything else to add of any particular relevance or value. But in my observation, meaningful political correctness is most effective (actually only effective) when it's implemented in an effort to eliminate intentionally mean-spirited behavior towards another.
Political correctness in its infancy for instance was designed to eliminate such things as racist terms from our everyday vernacular. I think we can all agree that this was a positive development. But is inadvertently wishing the wrong person "Merry Christmas" truly a mean-spirited act that needs to be immediately remedied? It just doesn't feel like it is. To the contrary, I would go as far as to say that extremes of this nature contribute towards the relegation of political correctness to that of a punch-line as opposed to what it once stood for, a meaningful agent of change.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa everyone. Celebrate and stand for what you believe in and be the first to acknowledge and respect those who do the same. After all, the very traditions we celebrate are rooted in the fundamentals of taking a stand for what we hold sacred. In doing so you will bring a new and reinvigorated meaning to the celebration.

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    • gmarquardt profile image

      gmarquardt 4 years ago from Hill Country, Texas

      For shorthand, in medieval times, "Xtina" (Christina) and "Xtian" (Christian) were common spellings for signatures. Hence the X when signing, perhaps. X in Greek is "Chi" shortened for Christ.... Happy Holidays!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 2 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      You did a great job on this Patrick. I enjoyed the humor and research put into the article. I am a CHRISTmas girl myself, but then also am not material at all. Shopping craziness makes me cringe and hibernate especially at this time of year. So I shall enjoy the spiritual aspects and let others fight it out. Be blessed and keep writing.

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