1. Why do some Jews refer to Christmas as Ex-mas?

  2. Is there anything wrong in Jews saying Christmas?

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    I've edited the question to make it about Jews -- why other people do or don't say something isn't on-topic here. I left your "Ex-mas" formulation even though I've never heard anybody say that ("Xmas" yes, "Ex-mas" no), because I couldn't tell if it was a typo or if you actually intended to say that. Dec 17, 2014 at 13:51

2 Answers 2


There are people who don't like saying "Christ", and therefore don't like saying "Christmas." If you don't have a strong secular education, you'd assume that "X" just means "fill-in-the-blank", so "X-mas" sounds like a more "kosher" way to refer to the holiday. (This is what my camp counselors did when I was a kid, and that was their explanation.)

As Ze'ev pointed out, however, "X" actually is just a Greek acronym for "Christ", so you gain little there.

The Vilna Gaon is quoted as saying that "Christ" per se is Greek for "anointed", and does not fall under the Talmud's prohibition on saying the name of a pagan deity. Hence I would assume that the same would apply to the term "Christmas."

(Whether you can wish someone a happy/merry Christmas is a different question...)

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    I have heard that some pasken that the X formation is in fact worse as it more points directly to one person, rather than a generic "anointed".
    – Yishai
    Dec 17, 2014 at 13:52
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    @Shalom, do you know where the Vilna Gaon says that? Dec 17, 2014 at 14:44
  • @ChiddusheiTorah I thought I'd seen it on an Ohr Sameach piece quoting him, though I'm not seeing it on their website now. Would have to look into it.
    – Shalom
    Dec 17, 2014 at 14:55
  • @Shalom, please let me know when you find it and send me a link to the source. Dec 17, 2014 at 15:53
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    I have heard the opposite before - that saying "Christ" is worse, because it means (or at least has the connotation of) savior, and is identifying one person as the "savior" Dec 17, 2014 at 18:26

The word Christ comes from the Greek Χριστός, and the initial letters, ΧΡ (chi rho), was a common abbreviation in handwritten manuscripts and a symbol for Christianity.

The English Xmas as an abbreviation of Christmas is long-attested: Xres mæsse appears in the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (c.1100). At some point in English the r was dropped from the abbreviation, and the modern Xmas was born. This written abbreviation for Christmas can also be said aloud, pronounced as ex-mas (though it hardly counts as an abbreviation in this case). Collins dictionary gives two pronunciations: ˈɛksməs & ˈkrɪsməs.


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