The ADVENTure of Christmas (6 of 12)

posted by Jeffrey on Thursday, December 08, 2005 at 1:30 PM

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Merry X-mas!! Hmm, I wonder are you offended or delighted at the use of that phrase? Today I'm going to share with you a verbatim excerpt from the ADVENTure of Christmas on the origin of this greeting. (Note the text between the "----'s" is directly from the book...I wanted to save the space that my block quotes take away.)
Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. Season's greetings. So many good wishes, but do we really know what we're saying? (Or not saying?) "Season's greetings!" is about as bland a salutation as we could ever receive. What does it mean? "Hello, in the middle of winter?"

"Happy holidays!" comes a little closer to having some kind of heartfelt meaning. Originally, the wish was for "Happy holy days," those days set aside specifically for worshipping God. Sometime in the 16th century, the term started referring to any day off from work that was devoted to rest and recreation. The word became holiday, and now the phrase seems to mean "Enjoy this time of year--whatever you're celebrating!"

Then there's the shorthand "Merry X-mas," which annoys people who see this as crossing Christ our of Christmas. But did you know that X is the first letter (chi) of the Greek word Christos, meaning Anointed One, or Messiah? X-mas is simply an abbreviation for Christmas. (By the way, have you ever noticed how we often use the letter X to mean "cross," as in Railroad X-ing?) Even so, I think it is a good idea to say--or write--the wonderful name of Jesus Christ whenever we can!
Another source noted that the Oxford English Dictionary documents the use of "X-mas" back to 1551, when the abbreviation was employed nearly universally wherever the name Christ was used. For example, Xian and Xianity were in frequent use as abbreviations of Christian and Christianity.

So whatever phrase you use to greet people this holichristikwanzaka season, please, I beg of you, do so with purpose and meaning. As for me and my house (uh, I don't mean that in some pompous gender bias kind of way), we'll wish our friends and fam a "Merry Christmas"; because like this author, I too love using the name of Christ whenever possible...but my second favorite holiday greeting is definately "mele kaliki maka" for obvious reasons.

Hey, here's something to think on too. Devout students of the Hebrew language never write out the word "God" they always write it "G-d" in fear of accidentally taking the Lord's name in vain. So maybe, somewhere in history, that plays into the "X-mas" or "Happy Holidays" greetings. Who knows.


Anonymous Hidden Nook said...

What a scary world we live in. Run by religious conservitives enforcing the "Merry Christmas" slogan because they want to promote their God over anyone elses belief.

I am glad to live in such a world. ;)

I posted something similiar on my blog. I found a jewish group advocating Christmas. I think those who object to the phrase Merry Christmas should relocate towards China as their views probably match those of the current administration.

December 11, 2005 7:49 PM


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