Christmastide vs. Xmas

I wish a merry Christmas to all my friends. As I wrote last year at this time, the Christmas season starts tomorrow. While I am by this time again rather annoyed by the overwhelming quantities of unrepentantly (and apparently unsuspectingly) premature celebration, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk at more length about a topic that I touched on in that essay.

It has recently become fashionable again to publicly object to the use of the abbreviation “Xmas” for “Christmas.” I say “again” because C.S. Lewis wrote a humorous essay about the supposed two holidays of Christmas and “Exmas.” A condemnation of this practice is generally preceded or followed by an injunction to “keep,” or “don’t lose sight of,” or words to that effect, “Christ in Christmas.” Talk about a non-sequitur. The ‘X’ in “Xmas” is not an arbitrarily chosen letter; before computers (and perhaps typewriters) became common, pretty much every word derived from the title “Christ” (“Christian,” “Christianity,” etc.) was often abbreviated by replacing “Christ” with its first letter in the Greek, ‘X’, much as if I sometimes sign notes to my family members with a single ‘J’.

I share the desire to reduce the glittering commercialism and glamorous secularism that seems to be the world’s most blatant attack on faith this time of year, but becoming a pedant about an issue that is at worst a symptom is not the way to go. A better idea, in my view, is to promote a more robust observance of the Christian year. Begin, this year, by celebrating Christmas for all of Christmastide, rather than just for tomorrow, the first day of the season, and continuing through the joy of beholding God’s glory in Epiphany, penitence in Lent, joy in Easter, and so on. Next year, begin the Christian year properly by turning away from the glistening lights of the secular “holiday season” and toward a sober mood of reflection, repentance, and anticipation–anticipation more of Christ’s second coming than of our celebration of his first.

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