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Christmas and Xmas
By Anthony Paul & Harry Shaw
In both GB and the USA Christmas is a public holiday (December 25), and is celebrated with religious services and various forms of merry-making. Traditional foods are eaten, especially rich Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings, which date from the Middle Ages, and roast turkey. Homes and churches are decorated with holly and mistletoe; this is a survival of pagan customs. Christmas trees were introduced to GB and the USA from Germany. Santa Claus (sometimes called Father Christmas) is a corrupt form of St Nicholas, patron saint of children, whose feast day is in fact 6 December. The first Christmas card was designed in England in 1843, and the habit of sending them became popular in about 1870; the custom then spread to the USA and other countries.
Xmas is an informal abbreviation of Christmas. In this word, X represents the figure of Jesus Christ and also the cross upon which he was crucified; X also suggests the Greek letter X, transliterated as Kh (the Greek chi, the letter with which Christos, the Greek word for Christ, begins). Xmas has been used for centuries in writing and is pronounced “exmas” in speech, but the term is considered inappropriate in formal writing, if not disrespectful and sacrilegious.
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