Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)
If our modern keyboard serves as a guide, the only less used letter than X would be Z. The letter X serves many purposes for being one of the least used letters in our alphabet. Yet, for all its apparent uselessness in our normal language, in the language of symbols it’s rife with meanings.
How many times have you ended an affectionate note with XX? You know, kisses? In countries where the Roman alphabet was used, illiterate people would put their mark, an X, on legal documents in lieu of their name. To prove their sincerity, the person who made the X would kiss it. In fact, the use of an X (a mark) to denote locations on maps gave us the phrase, “X marks the spot.”
In mathematics, an X means multiply. In algebra, it shows a variable in function, an unknown quantity. It was just a small leap from unknown mathematical quantity, to unknown in general, anonymity. Hence, the use of phrases like Mr. X or the X factor.
So here’s a question, how do we get from the anonymity of Mr. X to one of the biggest names in the religious world? Yep, X. We’re talking about the phrase Xmas. A long held belief by many is that Xmas is a result of the commercialization or for lack of a better phrase de-Christifying of Christmas. Which many find offensive, fortunately, that belief is just not true.
At least a thousand years back one can find Christ abbreviated as an X and P. The X and P came about as an abbreviation of the ancient spelling of Christ, Χριστος. This is still found in some Eastern Orthodox icons. This even evovled into the use of the letter X in ancient Christian art and the use of X as an abbreviation of Christos can be seen in ancient copies of the New Testament. Despite the common belief that Xmas is trying to X out the Christ from Christmas, Xmas is in fact a perfectly respectful way to abbreviate the holiday.
Hopefully this helps you appreciate the woefully underused letter X!