Should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?"

By Paul Dion, STL

First, allow me to present a statement: We are now gaining about 1.5 minutes of sunlight per day, on average, since December 21. It will take until March 21 for the amount of sunlight to equal the amount of night. So don't try to hold your breath. Now we can get a little bit serious, but not too much.

It is quite certain that most of you have seen the "abbreviated" form of Christmas, you know, XMAS. Some of you just accept it and don't pay any heed. Others look at it and are offended. Some of you are perhaps thinking that it is part of the "vast, left-wing conspiracy that is out there to demolish CHRISTMAS. does not use this form of writing "Christmas" because of the confusion that it can cause.

Now, the question(s):

Are you offended when you see XMAS? If you are, why?
If you are one of those who are not offended by XMAS, why are you not offended by it?
I know that this can seem silly, but if you are indifferent about it, why is that so?

Wait until you see the answer. You will all see that this is not a "silly" question.

If you still need to get something off your chest, we await your sentiments with open arms and a sharpened pencil.

God bless you all.


  1. No... I once thought it was a cheap way to avoid saying "Christmas", however, I have since found that it has almost a millenia of history. The Greek letters "chi" and "rho", Xp, which is usually seen as a synthesis of the two, have been understood to be a symbol for "Christ". In which case, XMas, became a short form of "Christus Maeses" or Christ-Mass...

    Merry Christmas.

    Laurence Gonzaga
    San Bernardino, CA

  2. I think a more direct way of asking the same question would be, "Are you offended by the removal of Christ as the central figure of any or all of our expressions regarding this season?" My answer - unequivocally is, NO. Why? Because to expect a predominantly secular world to act as if they are not secular is just plain silly and sad - not offensive. Do we expect a pig to bark like a dog? I am saddened by our increasing secularization - a motivation for greater formation and evangelization. If I take offense, I am emotionally positioning myself against people - rather than seeing the issue for what it is and attempting, in ways that I can directly control, to bring Christ to the forefront of all that I do. May the light of Christ become more manifest to you in this Advent season.

  3. Joseph12:11 PM

    For Heaven's sake.

    How many of you have seen what looks like an 'X' with a 'P' in the middle, on altars, holy pictures, or elsewhere? Or seen what looks like "XPIETOE" anywhere, with the "E" letters actually looking like "M"s tipped to the right?

    The word "Christos" in Greek - "Anointed One" in English, "Messiah" in Hebrew - starts with the Greek letters Chi (pron. rough 'k' + long 'i'), which looks like an 'X', and Rho (pron. "hr" (exhale more while saying 'r') + long 'o'), which looks like a 'P'. [For the curious, the remaining letter are Iota, Sigma, Tau, Omicron, Sigma.]

    So "Xmas" is an abbreviation of Christmas. Admittedly, some try to hide Christ. But He may not be hidden.

    ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ - ah, I can insert that! Or Χριστος - lower-case sigma has two forms.


  4. Stephen12:11 PM

    Early Christians used the greek Chi (X) to denote Christ - because the first letter of the greek word for Christ is X. The second letter is rho, which looks like a P but sounds like an R. The Px symbol on priests' vestments and altar dressings? Chi rho, the first two letters of Christ, and of Christmas.

    So I'm not at all offended. Intentionally or not, it is an historically suitable name.

  5. To me it's more important the intention behind the action. Since most see Xmas as an abbreviation for Christmas, instead of X being the first letter of Christ in Greek, I see it as a sadness. There are two different meanings to Christmas now: 1) in remembrance of Christ's incarnation and awaiting his Second Coming and 2) a secular holiday to spend your savings on presents and vacations that, unless it is done in a meaningful way, would be a non-refundable and quickly decaying purchase.

  6. Both Stephen and Dan make good points. I understand the historical nature of the X. I am not offended because we are called to a people set apart. I don't expect society to understand.

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  8. Thanks for the history lesson. Chi Rho and X being a symbol for Christ is a good historical fact to reflect on this Advent Season, as I often use Xmas and never knew the significance. Know that I do know, it will be another potential opportunity to educate others about our Catholic history and Faith. Thanks!

  9. Michael12:23 PM

    Should I be offended? I don't know. Am I? Yes. I don't want to go through some tortuous reasoning that the X is Chi, the first letter of Christ in Greek, etc. We don't live in the 1st century where we have to hide our Christianity and use little codes to identify ourselves to other Christians. This is the 21st century, and we all know good and well that there is a strong movement to suppress Christ/Christianity in our culture. So X'ing out Christ does grate on me.

  10. Krista12:23 PM

    I personally dislike "Xmas." I learned the reason for the X in 6th grade CCD, but I still don't like it. There is a reason the Bible has been translated into every language and Mass is now celebrated in every tongue. We speak English, not Greek here, which is why I say and write "Christmas."

    When other people do or act or say things that I would not personally do or act or say, I have several choices: 1 - get mad (or offended) about it, 2 - ignore it, maybe pray for them, or 3 - talk about it, and hopefully share Jesus with another person. Sometimes all you can do is 1 or 2, but I do hope that we might all consider taking the opportunity to share a little history and maybe some of Christ's love with the next person who says/writes it to us.

    God Bless you all this Advent season!

  11. Valentin12:24 PM

    I am not offended because it is actually a shorthand way of saying Christmas. "X" is a early Christian Symbol for Christ. Christmas is actually "Chris" and "Mass". So, you are really saying "X" and "Mass", where "X" is a shorthand (Early Christian Symbol) for Christ.

  12. Andrew12:25 PM

    There is a billboard in our town for the Line-X truck bed liner company that reads "We put the X in X-mas." I have found this advertisement not only offensive but blasphemous.

    Other than that though, I am not offended by the term Xmas. However, I also do not use it.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  13. I agree with brother Valentin on this. Just as the fish symbol was drawn above doorways to identify early Christians as followers of Jesus:

    "The Christian Fish, also called the Jesus Fish or Ichthys, was a secret symbol of early Christianity" See:

  14. Melissa12:33 PM

    X has been used as an abbreviation for Christ for a long time. In Greek, Christ starts with X, or chi -- and that article to which you linked notwithstanding, some of us who have studied Greek still pronounce chi as "kie," to rhyme with "pie." So to refer to Christmas as Xmas doesn't bother me.

    Some people think that it's offensive. Okay, fine, whatever they think is okay. It isn't like they're saying that Jesus was never born and those of us who think he was should be hunted down and shot, after all. It just means that they're shortening the word "Christmas," but it still means the same thing.

    Even when Christmas is secularized to the extreme, it doesn't really bother me. I'm unemployed, so I want people to spend money for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/whatever. That might kickstart some company into having enough money to hire me. Before I was unemployed, a secularized Christmas didn't bother me, either. We can't expect everybody to celebrate Christmas the same way that we do. Heck, it used to be that Christmas was looked on as a "papist" feast. The Puritans didn't allow it to be celebrated. Do we want to go back to those days? I sure don't! It's better just to tolerate multiple beliefs and practices as long as they aren't actively hurting us. That will bring more people to God in the long run than telling them that they are going to hell -- which we can't say for sure, in any event.

  15. One could easily be offended, but what's the point. One has to know what is in the heart of the person who is using 'X' in Xmas. In some instances one can know. In other instances this is not possible. So if one knows that someone is intentionally removing 'Christ' to signify the removal of its religious meaning, then I think we would be justified in being offended.

    Krista's point is very well taken. I completely share her view. Meanings of symbols change over time. So if most people today put 'X' without the 'P' (Chi-Rho) with the intent of removing Christ, then I think one would be justified in being offended.
    If the opportunity arises, we can use it to 'Preach Christ, everywhere and always'.

  16. The Xmas shortening can certainly offend many, understandably.

  17. I use Xmas all the time, because I'm literate enough to know that the X represents Christ. I use it deliberately.

    I'm somewhat surprised that this many people would be unaware of that bit of Church history, or be that illiterate.

  18. Michelle8:36 AM

    I was excited to see the answer to this question. I had always wondered about it, initially offended then accepted but I NEVER used Xmas not knowing. I figured I cannot change others but I can continue to do the right thing. Thank you for clarifying the point and Merry Xmas!