Q: Please give me some information on John Lennon’s Christmas song HAPPY XMAS. Also, when I was growing up, I was always told that if you spelled Christmas as “Xmas” it was blasphemous, So why is it sometimes spelled that way?

A: I was told that, too! Adults (including teachers) told me that if you spelled it as “Xmas,” you were crossing out Christ’s name; but I discovered later that the “X” is a Greek reference to Jesus. “Xmas” originated as handwriting abbreviations for the pronunciation “Christmas;” the word “Christ” was often written as “XP” or “Xt” as far back as 1021 AD. In the New Testament, X is used as an abbreviation for Christos and in the 1500’s the words “Xian” and “Xianity” were used as abbreviations of “Christian” and “Christianity” – so it seems that the term “Xmas” is not as blasphemous as I had been told all those years ago…..even though I still feel compelled to write the whole word out! As for John Lennon’s song HAPPY XMAS, the lyrics were based on a 1969 “War Is Over” billboard campaign instigated by John and Yoko Ono as a protest to the war in Vietnam. They had billboards erected in eleven cities around the world (including New York City) that read: “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko.” HAPPY XMAS was originally supposed to be called “War Is Over (If You Want It)” but was changed to become a Christmas song; but you can still hear the lyrics “war is over, if you want it; war is over – now” at the end of the song.

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