What Does Merry Xmas Mean?

What Does Merry Xmas Mean? Origin of the X in Christmas

I’m guilty. In my somewhat younger years, I cringed each time I saw the phrase, “Merry Xmas” in a holiday store window or on a greeting card. In fact, while writing this article I decided to look up the word in the dictionary. Not to my surprise, the Dictionary.com definition simply states:


  1. Often Offensive. Christmas.”

But, my view changed when I read an article about the “X” instead of Christ’s name. If you haven’t heard this explanation, I believe you’ll appreciate the origin of “Merry Xmas.

Xmas vs. Christmas: Unraveling the “X” Mystery

Nowadays, Christians use the cross symbol as a representation of their faith and a reminder of Jesus’ crucifixion. But centuries ago, early Christians used an “X” to greet one another instead.

Xmas vs. Christmas: Unraveling the “X” Mystery

When we see signs or greeting cards that say “Merry Xmas,” it is natural to wonder why the letter “X” is used instead of the word “Christmas.” Some might think that the “X” is a modern abbreviation, a way to make the word shorter or trendy. However, the origins of this abbreviation are much deeper than that.

Early Christians and the X-Greeting

The origin of using an X to represent Christianity dates back to early times. Roman Empire leaders banned crosses  in many of its sectors. Under Roman rule, crosses could be seen as symbols of violence and subjugation. So, the new Christian faith had to find other ways to express itself.

The Symbol of the Cross

One popular way was to use an “X” as a secret sign of faith and recognition between believers. This form of “Christogram” was a shorthand reference to Christ’s name – “Xristos,” meaning “Christ” in Greek. The early Christians used the symbol as a form of greeting or benediction.

By slapping palms in the shape of an “X” or tracing it in the air, believers could indicate their faith in Christ without offending non-believers.

The X Factor’s Popularity

Over time, the “X” became increasingly popular. It emerged in literature, art, and even etched into church walls. In fact, people use “X” today, most commonly in the Christian greeting “Xoxo” which stands for “hugs and kisses”.

Although the cross symbol has since become synonymous with Christianity, it is amazing to think that early followers of the religion came up with such a clever way to identify themselves with one another. This is a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the early Christians.

In a world where Christianity was often considered socially unacceptable, the gentle gesture of tracing an “X” showed a powerful sign of solidarity and faith. This simple yet meaningful gesture is a reminder of the strength of the human spirit in times of adversity. I can’t help but wonder if we will soon need to “re-invent” the tradition of using an x instead of the cross to avoid persecution. But that’s up to God.

In Christ,