|It's a balmy Christmas night where I live, so here's a festive word for us all
||[Dec. 25th, 2009|10:01 pm]
Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases
Christmas, n. [kris-muhs, krĭs-məs]
-This holiday is both ancient and modern, religious and secular. It first appears in our language during the time of Old English, when it was simply called the Cristes mæsse 'Christ's mass or festival,' a mass being the religious service performed by a priest in front of (later involving) the community members. By late Middle English and beginning in at least the 14th century, the name for this holy day was shortened to the single word Cristemas. When the name Cristes was altered to Christ during the 15th century, it was also changed in the name of the holiday, resulting in Christmas. As for the infamous Xmas, this was in no way meant to delete the name of Jesus from the holiday. The earliest known use is recorded as Xres mæsse from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which dates from 1100, long before Cristes mæsse as the proper name had even been joined into one word. Xres was derived from Xr-, one of the two early ways of shortening Cristes (the other being Xp-)from Greek Christos. In actual Greek, Christos is written as Χριστός, so the Xr- (or Xp-) is just the first letter of his name. We don't see any form of Xmas as one word until the mid-1500's.
Merry Christmas to everyone here who celebrates it, and a belated Happy Hanukkah, Merry Yule, and early Happy Kwanzaa! I'm happy to report that I have the next week off, so I'll only be posting on occasion here. Everyone take care and enjoy the festive time of year!