The Etymology of Christmas

Etymology of ChristmasHeres a program from our archives.Music: Deck the Halls Amongst the legacies of Christmas are symbolic expressions that we’ve come to associate with the season, such as Xmas and Yule. But did you ever wonder where these words came from? I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.”Yule has an origin that is still somewhat in dispute. Some believe that it’s Germanic in origin and it comes from ‘Jule’ which actually means a turning wheel.”Vaughn Bryant is the head of the anthropology department at Texas A&M University. He tells us that the word yule may date back to the pre-Christian celebration of the winter solstice, which falls around the 21st of December.”And again, the turning wheel would be a reference to the winter solstice, the turning of the seasons and so forth and so the Yule season then would be the winter season or the winter solstice season. Now that’s one possibility. There’s another possible origin and it’s from the Anglo Saxon early word, ‘jule’ which actually meant ‘festive’ or ‘feast time.'”And what about Xmas? “I used to think Xmas was just a shortened version of Christmas, which of course it really is, but I used to think somebody just took off the Christ and put an x. But it turns out it actually has a more ritual meaning than that. The letter X is really the first letter of the word Xtos, which in Greek is the word for Christ and so the Xtos Mass actually becomes, Christmas or Xmas. Xmas is actually a Greek derivative. It was first used in the 18 and 1900s in the United States and then some people said, ‘oh you shouldn’t use that’ because they thought is was a campaign to eradicate the real word ‘Christmas’. But in reality it’s really a very legitimate term that’s used with the Greek Orthodox church.”Pulse of the Planet is presented the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner. This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. If you want hear more, check out our podcast.

The Etymology of Christmas

Ever wonder where "Xmas" came from?
Air Date:12/19/2018
Scientist:
Transcript:

Etymology of ChristmasHeres a program from our archives.Music: Deck the Halls Amongst the legacies of Christmas are symbolic expressions that we've come to associate with the season, such as Xmas and Yule. But did you ever wonder where these words came from? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet."Yule has an origin that is still somewhat in dispute. Some believe that it's Germanic in origin and it comes from 'Jule' which actually means a turning wheel."Vaughn Bryant is the head of the anthropology department at Texas A&M University. He tells us that the word yule may date back to the pre-Christian celebration of the winter solstice, which falls around the 21st of December."And again, the turning wheel would be a reference to the winter solstice, the turning of the seasons and so forth and so the Yule season then would be the winter season or the winter solstice season. Now that's one possibility. There's another possible origin and it's from the Anglo Saxon early word, 'jule' which actually meant 'festive' or 'feast time.'"And what about Xmas? "I used to think Xmas was just a shortened version of Christmas, which of course it really is, but I used to think somebody just took off the Christ and put an x. But it turns out it actually has a more ritual meaning than that. The letter X is really the first letter of the word Xtos, which in Greek is the word for Christ and so the Xtos Mass actually becomes, Christmas or Xmas. Xmas is actually a Greek derivative. It was first used in the 18 and 1900s in the United States and then some people said, 'oh you shouldn't use that' because they thought is was a campaign to eradicate the real word 'Christmas'. But in reality it's really a very legitimate term that's used with the Greek Orthodox church."Pulse of the Planet is presented the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner. This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. If you want hear more, check out our podcast.