Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Xmas x2

click photo to enlarge
In recent years the US-inspired "Happy Holidays" has been used by some as a way of passing on best wishes at this time of year without using the religion-specific "Merry Christmas". This new construction seems pointless to me: in the UK the words "Season's Greetings" has long performed this task admirably, and is often used by those of no religion as the mid-winter salutation of choice.

Periodically those of a Christian persuasion have fulminated against the substitution of "Merry Xmas" for "Merry Christmas". The former is seen as a modern, ad-man's corruption of a traditional spelling, and church-goers often reject it for taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas". Now, whilst it's true that some may use Xmas as a non-religious greeting, and others for its brevity, or even for design considerations, the abbreviation is a construction of very long standing that has been used by Christians for centuries. It derives from the early Christian conflation of the Greek "chi" (X) and "rho" (R) to represent Christ's name. In the fifteenth century, Gutenberg used Xmas when setting the first movable type, and its use crops up regularly between that time and the present day. Religious conspiracy theorists are wrong if they think it is modern society's way of secularising Christmas.

My photograph shows the cappuccinos that my wife and I were given recently when we stopped at a cafe during a break in an afternoon walk. The chocolate had been sprinkled through a metal template to spell the greeting on the top of the drink. And so, in this season of goodwill, I use this photograph to pass on my best wishes to you for a "Merry Xmas" multiplied by two! Or, if you prefer, "Merry Christmas", "Season's Greetings", and "Happy Holidays" to everyone!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen