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As a writer, I avoid the use of “Merry Xmas.”

It’s a personal preference. I tend to avoid abbreviations, contractions, acronyms, initialisms and the like, unless the purpose is notetaking and a few other situations.

For example, my Christmas containers are labeled with “Xmas” — “Xmas Decorations,” “Xmas Wrap” and the like. It saves my label-maker tape, and as a Christian, “Xmas” doesn’t bother me.

I’m aware some Christians abhor the use of “Xmas,” saying it takes “Christ” out of “Christmas.” This topic comes up every year, with critics lambasting the common use of “Xmas.”

The New Testament was originally written in Greek. In the Greek alphabet, “X” is pronounced as “chi.” In the language, it is the first letter “Kristos.” Early Christians also assigned special significance to the X’s cross shape.

In the early days of the faith, Christians were persecuted, and they used an “X” as a covert symbol when relaying messages.

By the early 300s, Constantine the Great famously became the Roman Empire’s first ruler to convert to Christianity. He emblazoned his military regalia with symbols of his new faith, including a new symbol he had created. It was based on the first two letters of Christ’s name, in Greek. You’ve no doubt seen it before; it looks like an “X” over a “P,” which sounds like “rho.”

Harkening to this practice, an Anglo-Saxon writer used “XPmas” in 1021 to save on expensive parchment. The money-saving idea caught on. By the 16th century, “Xmas” for “Christmas” had entered common use across Europe.

Still, the “X” is viewed today as disrespectful. It matters little the word “Christmas” is essentially a contraction, distilled from “the Mass of Jesus Christ.” The full title refers to the feast commemorating Jesus’ birth. It has been celebrated on Jan. 6 at the start of epiphany, Dec. 25 in the Western church, on or around Jan. 7 in the Eastern Orthodox Church and other dates.

The Christmas observance dates to as early as 200 years after Christ’s death. As a feast day, it became a widespread celebration during the Middle Ages, called “Cristes Maesse” in Old English. Meanwhile, the multiday festival of “Christmastide” stretched from Dec. 24 to 12th Night, which marked the beginning of Epiphany (Jan. 6 in the Western church calendar).

It also is probably pointless to note the first Christmas observances were focused on prayer and meditation — no presents, massive meals or entertainments.

In recent years, there has been growing tension between Christians, those of other religions, atheists and others.

There’s the widespread use of the greeting “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” which some view as highly offensive. So, too, are secularized “Xmas” observances as well as the perceived lack of public recognition and visibility for Christian rites, holidays and rituals.

I contrast these claims against the struggles of Joseph and Mary. They were relative outcasts far from home, who sought refuge and harbor from the persecution of an angry king. They told an implausible story and made due with a stable for their lodgings.

I also consider the story of their child. From birth to death and the ministry that followed, he was barely tolerated, let alone accepted. Those who built the foundation for his ongoing ministry endured discrimination, violence and death to practice their beliefs.

Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at


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