XMas & (C)han(n)uk(k)a(h)

Culture, Language

One of my students asked why Christmas was spelled X-mas? Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

The word Christ” and its compounds, including Christmas”, have been abbreviated for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern Xmas” was commonly used. Christ” was often written as XP or Xt”; there are references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as far back as 1021 AD. This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the Greek letters χ and ρ), used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for Christ”), and are still widely seen in many Eastern Orthodox icons depicting Jesus Christ. The labarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches

My students also pointed out that in Chinese there are two alternatives for Christmas: 聖誕節 Shèngdànjié (lit. Holy Birthday”) or 耶誕節 Yēdànjié which more specifically refers to Jesus (耶穌 Yēsū). Until recently Christmas was a national holiday in Taiwan, but officially it was listed as being a day off for Constitution Day” not because of the religious holiday. Of course, the fact that Chiang Kai-shek was christian and that the KMT government had major economic and political support from Christian groups in the US meant that there was a strong reason to have an official holiday on that day, whatever it is called. Even though it is no longer a national holiday (scrapped to make room for the five day work week), one can’t escape awful Christmas music (made even worse in local covers) when shopping in Taiwan as businesses have latched on to the holiday as a way to promote sales. And because most Aborigines are Christian, the Christmas spirit is especially strong here on the East coast.

On a related note, Language Log asks how do you spell that Jewish holiday? I never realized there were so many options!

However you spell it, happy holidays!

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