The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Voir le sujet précédent Voir le sujet suivant Aller en bas

The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  Philippe-Henri le Ven 25 Déc - 8:29

Source: theweek.com

Almost every language has a word for 'Christmas.' Few reference Christ.

¡Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël! Frohe Weihnachten! God Jul! Sretan Božić! Crăciun fericit! Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!
How do you keep the Christ in Christmas if your language doesn't have a Christ in it to begin with?

The languages of the world have quite a variety of names for Christmas. That's not surprising, what with different languages having different words for things, but it turns out that our Christmas name stocking is stuffed with words that mean quite a few unrelated things. And many of them have nothing to do with Christ.

Christmas lands right at the same time as winter solstice festivals that were celebrated long before the coming of Christianity. That's likely an important reason Christmas is celebrated when it is: to co-opt the pagan festivals. (Jesus probably wasn't actually born on December 25. Scholars — including, in a 2012 book, Pope Benedict XVI — have raised many questions and made many suggestions about his actual birth date.) And Christmas isn't the only Christian celebration to co-opt pagan festivals: Hallowe'en and All Saints' Day take over from a fall festival, for instance, and Easter gets its English name — and those eggs and bunnies — from a pagan goddess, Eostre. Likewise, Christmas gets its trees and holly and mistletoe and even its gift-giving traditions from pre-Christian religious celebrations, and in many languages it gets its name from them too.

Take Yule, for instance (Old English spelling: Geol). Yule featured trees, logs, boars, carol-singing, and feasting at night. It appears in Scandinavian languages as Jul (or, in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, Jól) and was borrowed into Finnish as Joulu and Estonian as Jõulud — all now their words for Christmas. Yule was a festival of a holy night (or nights), and that's where German name for Christmas, Weihnachten, comes from: Middle High German wihen nahten, "holy night" (also converted by Czech into Vánoce). Oh, yes, it's holy for Christians too. It was easy enough to convert the festival to Christianity. Other nearby countries had winter festivals, too. In Latvian, Christmas is Ziemassvētki, which means (drumroll, please) "winter festival."

The Romans had a similar festival: the day of the birth of the unconquered sun. In Latin, that's dies natalis solis invicti. Just as the festival came to celebrate the birth not of the sun but of the son (of God), that word natalis, "of the birth," changed over time as Latin split into different languages. It became French Noël, Italian Natale, Spanish Navidad, and Portuguese Natal. Celtic languages also borrowed it: Gaelic Nollaig, Welsh Nadolig, and Breton Nedeleg.
Romanian also came from Latin, but in Romanian, Christmas is Crăciun, which is thought to come from Latin calatio, the name of a calling together of the people by priests — pre-Christian ones. Hungarian uses another version of the same word, Karácsony. In Lithuanian, Christmas is Kalėdos, which has an unclear origin but may come from the same source or a related one.

Birth shows up in other languages' names for Christmas, and it's not always easy to say whether the term started in reference to the birth of Jesus or whether it was carried over from a reference to a pagan birth (as of the sun god, for instance). In Polish it's Boże Narodzenie, "birth of God." Croatian Božić is a similar reference to God (or a god). Russian and Bulgarian are clear about whose birth it is: their name is Рождество Христово (Rozhdestvo Khristovo), meaning "birth of Christ." Albanian Krishtlindja means the same thing. So does Greek Χριστούγεννα (Khristougenna, which sounds to English speakers like "khristuyenna"). You'll notice that the Greek word starts with a letter that looks just like X. This is where Xmas comes from — English borrowed on an ancient scribal tradition of representing the Greek word Christos (Χριστός) with its first initial.

There are quite a lot of languages that have only needed a word for Christmas in fairly recent times. Some have used translations of "the birth of Jesus" or words to that effect — Mandarin Chinese 圣诞 shèng dàn means "birth of the sage." But many have gotten their word from whatever European language had the strongest influence on them at the time. Some use versions of Noel or Natal. Many use an adaptation of Christmas.

Ah, yes, Christmas. Our word comes from Old English Cristes mæsse, "the mass (liturgical celebration) of Christ." Dutch Kerstmiss comes from the same thing. Pretty much every other language that has a word with that origin got it from English or Dutch… and usually English.
In quite a lot of languages, though, "krismas" is not a possible sound combination. Some languages don't allow you to put the consonants together without vowels in between (so the Japanese version is Kurisumasu). Others don't use one or more of the sounds in the word. Thanks to Bing Crosby's song "Mele Kalikimaka," a well-known case of this is Hawai‘ian. Hawai‘ian doesn't have the sound "r" or the sound "s," and it doesn't allow two consonants to go together either. The closest it can come to Christmas is Kalikimaka, with l for r and k for s (k can also be said like "t" and possibly even "s" in some contexts, though no one told Bing that), plus some extra vowels. Yule would have been easier to work with…

Philippe-Henri

Philippe-Henri

Messages : 254
Lieu : Lille
Langues : Néerlandais (Langue maternelle), Fr, Gb

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Re: The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  gerardM le Ven 25 Déc - 19:11

Hi Pierre-Henri,

Thanks a lot for all of the details regarding the words used for Christmas: very interesting!

_________________
Please feel free to point out big mistakes in my messages in a foreign language. Thanks to your remarks, I'll be able to improve my level.
PS: Pls note that I chose American English for my vocabulary, grammar, spelling, culture, etc.  :-)
avatar
gerardM

Messages : 34214
Lieu : Ermont & Eaubonne café-langues (Val d'Oise)
Langues : Français (Langue maternelle), US-En, De, It, Ru

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur http://volangues.blogspot.com/

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  Philippe-Henri le Ven 25 Déc - 19:39

Yes, Gérard, but I would like more people to react. People who don’t agree with me and who feel like telling THEIR opinion. I’m a bit disappointed about this forum. Is my English too difficult for them? Would I get a better chance if I said it in French?

Philippe-Henri

Philippe-Henri

Messages : 254
Lieu : Lille
Langues : Néerlandais (Langue maternelle), Fr, Gb

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Re: The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  gerardM le Ven 25 Déc - 20:53

Philippe-Henri,

When I read the title "The origin of the word 'Xmas'", I thought you'd speak about the "Christ" replaced by "X" which is criticised by people who don't know much, stating this spelling is anti-religious, etc.

I would say the title doesn't refect the content. Your words explain the origins of all of the/many words used for these celebrations from winter solstice to the end of the year, to Christ's birth, to god birth; I learned (sorry for the Americanism) many things and I found it very exciting.
Thanks!

_________________
Please feel free to point out big mistakes in my messages in a foreign language. Thanks to your remarks, I'll be able to improve my level.
PS: Pls note that I chose American English for my vocabulary, grammar, spelling, culture, etc.  :-)
avatar
gerardM

Messages : 34214
Lieu : Ermont & Eaubonne café-langues (Val d'Oise)
Langues : Français (Langue maternelle), US-En, De, It, Ru

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur http://volangues.blogspot.com/

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  Philippe-Henri le Sam 26 Déc - 4:55

Hum! I didn’t use the word «X-mas» on purpose. Most of the Christian Bible, as we know it today, came to us through the so-called Septuagint («Les Septante» ̶̶̶̶_actually 72 ̶̶ ) who translated it from Hebrew to Greek. It’s common usage in Anglo-Saxon writings to spell Christ’s name by the Greek character “CHI’, the first letter of CHristos. It’s very handy, particularly for ‘pagans’, to use this abbreviation, since Christmas has become worldwide a public holiday without any religious connotation.

For most people, Xmas just stands for a day off, shopping for presents and a Christmas Eve supper with foie gras and oysters. And a lot of wine, which is a symbol for Roman Catholics anyway… [grin].

At any rate, should the figure have existed, it is most unlikely that his real birthday was on 25 December, simply because the Jews probably had a different ‘calendar’ two thousand years ago. The choice of this date is unmistakably made by the Church to co-opt the existing pagan festival of Winter Solstice, which apart from the steady shift due to the «precession of the equinoxes», is a fixed date that our ancestors could read from the stars. According to age-old tradition, both Winter and Summer Solstices were celebrated by dancing and drinking a lot during the whole night around a huge wood fire outdoor. The remnant of this time-honoured ceremony can be found in the current Scandinavian St. John’s Midsummer Night (23 June) and in our hazardous habit of lighting live candles in a «Christmas tree». Today, the use of electric lights have greatly reduced the risk of fire, but there is still a tradition in certain rural areas to collect ‘old’ Christmas fir trees after Epiphany and to make a great bonfire at the central square of the village. For many people, the idea of setting things on fire is undoubtedly associated with a sense of joy and pleasure. Pyromania may well be an extreme form of it.

Well, as you see, there is much more to say about X-mas than just a word!

Philippe-Henri

Philippe-Henri

Messages : 254
Lieu : Lille
Langues : Néerlandais (Langue maternelle), Fr, Gb

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Re: The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  gerardM le Sam 26 Déc - 21:28

> Well, as you see, there is much more to say about X-mas than just a word!
I see.

_________________
Please feel free to point out big mistakes in my messages in a foreign language. Thanks to your remarks, I'll be able to improve my level.
PS: Pls note that I chose American English for my vocabulary, grammar, spelling, culture, etc.  :-)
avatar
gerardM

Messages : 34214
Lieu : Ermont & Eaubonne café-langues (Val d'Oise)
Langues : Français (Langue maternelle), US-En, De, It, Ru

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur http://volangues.blogspot.com/

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Re: The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  MurielB le Sam 26 Déc - 22:04

yes Gérard and Philippe Henri there is much to say about Christmas. In my opinion what is important are not the custums linked to a religious feast nor enjoying food or drinking too much, nor telling father Christmas stories to our young children, nor giving one another présents. what is important is that nice and shiny break in a gloomy period of the year when we draw our loved one closer to one another.

_________________
Merci de me faire part des grosses fautes dans mes messages en langue étrangère. Grâce à vos remarques, je pourrai m'améliorer :-)
avatar
MurielB
Admin

Messages : 12433
Lieu : Calais
Langues : Français (Langue maternelle), Gb, De, It, Es

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  Philippe-Henri le Sam 26 Déc - 23:56

To Muriel and Gérard

Muriel’s statement about «that nice and shiny break in a gloomy period of the year when we draw our loved one closer to one another» is just a metaphor.

Xmas carols, Xmas trees, candlelight suppers… it’s all romantic nonsense. If we really want Peace To People Of Good Will, why did we allow crimes like Charlie and Bataclan to occur?

Let me help open your eyes and return to reality. Gloomy days have nothing to do with closer contact with friends and relatives. Gloomy days are due to the fact that we are currently in the period of the Winter Solstice (23 December). I can scientifically explain what solstice means, but this matter hasn’t a great deal of importance. What matters is that seeds are germinating in the soil, days are lengthening again and spring is only a few months ahead.

By the way, this “winter sentimentality” is typical for people living in the Northern hemisphere. Friends of mine in Uruguay, are currently experiencing full summer!

Similarly, Antonio Vivaldi’s FOUR Seasons would be totally incomprehensible for people in tropical areas: they have only TWO seasons!This is to say that we, as supposed polyglots, tend to stick to our own culture. We should realize that «language» is not just a question of speech. Any language refers to a specific culture in the world. To be a polyglot means the ability of getting into someone else’s culture, customs and traditions.

This is why all the fuss we make about Christmas is totally meaningless to large parts of the world population!

Philippe-Henri

Philippe-Henri

Messages : 254
Lieu : Lille
Langues : Néerlandais (Langue maternelle), Fr, Gb

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Re: The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  MurielB le Dim 27 Déc - 20:49

Henri do you remember the Dalaï-lama "s words ?
Be the change you want in the world
You know I can't change the world but I can change the place where I live and make it a bit better.

_________________
Merci de me faire part des grosses fautes dans mes messages en langue étrangère. Grâce à vos remarques, je pourrai m'améliorer :-)
avatar
MurielB
Admin

Messages : 12433
Lieu : Calais
Langues : Français (Langue maternelle), Gb, De, It, Es

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  Philippe-Henri le Lun 28 Déc - 3:20

To Muriel

It was not, as a polyglot, by commenting on the word ‘Xmas’, my intention to stir up a discussion on spiritual issues. Now, you can imagine changing the place where you live, but you can’t change the world itself.

Philippe-Henri

Philippe-Henri

Messages : 254
Lieu : Lille
Langues : Néerlandais (Langue maternelle), Fr, Gb

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Re: The origin of the word 'Xmas'

Message  MurielB le Lun 28 Déc - 23:50

Henri your commenting on the word "Christmas"was very interesting. As for me, I have a lot of comings and goings in my house at the moment; Children or adults and I can only concentrate on matter of fact subjects.

_________________
Merci de me faire part des grosses fautes dans mes messages en langue étrangère. Grâce à vos remarques, je pourrai m'améliorer :-)
avatar
MurielB
Admin

Messages : 12433
Lieu : Calais
Langues : Français (Langue maternelle), Gb, De, It, Es

Voir le profil de l'utilisateur

Revenir en haut Aller en bas

Voir le sujet précédent Voir le sujet suivant Revenir en haut


 
Permission de ce forum:
Vous ne pouvez pas répondre aux sujets dans ce forum