Letters To The Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
Every year, even before Halloween on October 31st, Christmas worms its way into stores and shops everywhere like a spastic reflex. With the dawn of December merchants and customers are in a fervor about Christmas. Well, why not, after all?
I often hear people spell “Christmas”as “X – mas” and talk about “X-mas” this and “X-mas” that. If I ask how one spells the word Christmas I am given “X-mas” in reply, as if people do not recognize that it is an abbreviation of some other word to begin with. In Japanese junior/senior high school textbooks I have even seen Christmas written like that with no explanation. The situation is made worse because many native English speakers also say “X – mas” and themselves do not know what the“X” means or why the abbreviation is spelled with an “X.” So let’s put the record straight, and maybe readers will see it and remember. That constitutes learning: surprise and memory.
It isn’t a Latin “X” at all. It’s the Greek letter “chi” (pronounced “kai”)which just happens to look like a Latin “X.” “Christmas” is a Greek word - spelled “chi-rho-iota-sigma-tau-mu-alpha-sigma”(χριστμάς) or literally, the Mass of Christ - and “X – mas” is an abbreviation of that word. So people should be saying “Kai-mas” when they see, read and speak the abbreviation, which admittedly sounds silly.
And another things about Christmas. Everybody knows that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, which is in Canada. So what’s with all this media attention to Finland’s (false) claims to Santa? Every December a Finn Santa visits Japan on a goodwill tour, and the media drink it up despite its error.
Published on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 as “Many confused over Xmas/Christmas.”
I studied Greek in my freshman year at university, which is why I know this. It is annoying how universal the repetition of “X-mas” is, and I know perfectly well that 99% of speakers have no idea what the “X” means. I just wanted to educate the public.