Blazing Symbols

It is farcical, really, the level to which some manufactured controversies rise. Mel Brooks could not write a movie more ridiculous than what we endure every year. Thanks to a ploy for ratings over at Fox News, the holiday season in the United States is now ground zero in the artificial battle over symbols known as the “culture wars.” And once again, the wars are fueled by a thorough lack of historical knowledge, and a willful lack of context. At the central front in the culture wars, the mythical war on Christmas fought by Fox is built around two concepts:

Taking Christ out of Christmas by saying or writing “Merry Xmas”…

Saying, writing, or wishing someone “Happy Holidays”

That Merry Xmas has been used for centuries matters little to those horrified by the phrase…it stands as some kind of secular attack on the person of Christ Himself. But this is an idea devoid of historical context; indeed it is devoid of the kind of religious context that can’t be found in evangelical red-letter Bibles. Observe the symbol below.

alpha, omega, chi, rho

The “x” in the symbol stands for the Greek chi, while the “r” stands for rho. This symbol is sometimes referred to as a christogram, and always stands for Christ. It has been carved onto tombs, in the catacombs, and on headstones for more than 1,000 years. And just as it is a simple matter to draw a rudimentary fish symbol, an “x” drawn for an English speaking audience has been a clear indication for more than 500 years that the person making the mark was a Christian.


The literal English translation of Xmas is Christ Mass, so who is it again that is taking Christ out of Christmas?

At least with the Xmas scuffle there are historical vagaries and language gaps to explain some of the rough edges of controversy. The struggle over Happy Holidays lies well over the border between reason and madness. Why, at a minimum, is it a bad thing to sincerely wish that anyone have a happy season? Especially when, even for Christians, that season boasts multiple celebrations. Christians in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years during the season.

And I suppose we shouldn’t dare talk about those folks who celebrate the season as a time for family even as they don’t follow the Christian faith (or who celebrate the religious holidays of other faiths.) But for you Christians out there who are suspicious of Happy Holidays (and those of you who think it another “secular assault” on Christ), think on the origin of “holiday”, and be comforted. Holiday comes from the Old English haligdaeg, meaning, well, you know…

Holy Day

This season, for good or for ill, and for all faiths and none, is a time when the best of humanity is often on display. People greet each other with good cheer, people show each other respect…I for one see too much evidence of the goodness of humanity during this time to feel bad during the holidays. But for some, there is no discourse without conflict, and as conflict always thrives in a deficit of facts, there is plenty during this season to fight about.

The Rational Middle hopes that your holy days, centered on religious celebrations or not, are filled with friends, family…and indeed, are happy.