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Because wherever you go, there you are
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I was recently gently chided by someone for using "Xmas" as an abbreviation. She wrote that
when you use the abbreviation "Xmas" as you did in your post, you are contributing to the taking of Christ out of Christmas.
I responded as follows:

No, I'm not:
Xmas: This abbreviation for Christmas is of Greek origin. The word for Christ in Greek is Xristos. During the 16th century, Europeans began using the first initial of Christ's name, "X" in place of the word Christ in Christmas as a shorthand form of the word. Although the early Christians understood that X stood for Christ's name, later Christians who did not understand the Greek language mistook "Xmas" as a sign of disrespect.

It is no more disrespectful than using "NY" to refer to New York or "USA" to refer to our country.

Quite frankly, people have been making the same complaint for more than fifty year (and probably longer). The earliest Christians did not celebrate Christmas--to them the holiest holiday was Easter, the resurrection, and the entire reason for Christianity.

It was not until centuries later that the holiday began to evolve into a big celebration, and it did so largely to compete with popular pagan holidays. The date we celebrate is actually quite inaccurate; most scholars guess that the actual birth of Christ was sometime in the spring. But the 25th was a big holiday, because it was the birthday of Mithras. Although Mithraism has its origins in 6th century BC Persia, it had become a popular Roman religion, especially among the warrior class. Mithras
....was born of a virgin, with only shepherds present. Mithras was known as “the way”, “the truth”, “the Life", “the Light”, “the Word”, the “Son of God”, and “the Good Shepherd”. He was pictured carrying a Lamb on his shoulders. Sunday was sacred and known as “the Lord’s Day" centuries before Jesus was ever born.

On December 25th, there were glorious celebrations with bells, hymns, candles, gifts, and ‘communion’ was observed by the followers.

Other "Christmas" traditions are also pagan in origin--the tree, the yule log, even caroling. In Ukraine, for instance, at the time of "kolyada" (winter solstice) it was traditional to go from house to house singing "kolyadky". This was rolled into christianity after 988, and many new songs were written, but quite a few of those still sung have very pagan themes.

Much of what we take for granted as being "Christian" is actually a result of syncretism, the absorption by a new religion of parts of the old. This is particularly true in Latin America, where many of the local gods have been rechristened as saints and continue to be worshipped. And what about Catholic Marian worship? It is a relatively late development in Catholicism, and came about as a way to appeal to cultures with a very strong tradition of mother goddess worship.

Taking the "Christ" out of Christmas is not being done by those of us who abbreviate, but by huge multinational corporate interests whose only interest is putting Americans further and further in debt by selling them more and more. Right wing, Republican interests.

What would Christ have wanted? I suspect not hero worship, and not public worship. Did he not say
Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men....when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret...."

I take that to mean that he would have wanted us to pray in private, and not make a big show of our piety in public. Which is exactly what those "War on Christmas" types are on about-public actions. Believe, pray, and help others--is that not what the words of the Christ in the new testament teach us? Me, I choose the quiet Christ, teaching in parables, to all the braying and false piety of all the Limbaughs and O'Reillys of the world any day.


At 10:58 PM, Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

Thanks for correcting me. I had always thought that the X referred to the cross in a symbolic way. My personal pet peeve is "Season's Greetings." Argh...

P.S. Your post has been referenced here.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger twodogmom said...

You go girl!!!! I'm with you on the 'pious' Christans who are blissfully unaware that Christmas is actually a 'made-up' season- and lack the curiosity to examine the 'traditions' of their religions teachings. Myself, I worship at the feet of Miss Manners- she's all we need to achieve world peace (and politeness).


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