Hugs and kisses
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The common custom of placing Xs on envelopes, notes and at the bottom of letters to mean kisses dates back to the Middle Ages, when a Christian cross was drawn on documents or letters to mean sincerity, faith, and honesty. A kiss was then placed upon the cross, by the signer as a display of their sworn oath. It was also used in early Christian history as much of a display of the same. Since most of the common people could not read or write, the 'X' was placed on documents, and a kiss placed upon it as a show of their sincerity. The Chi Rho, often represented with the letter 'X', was also used as a holy symbol throughout Christian history as it represented the Greek word for Christ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ; this gave rise to the practice of using the letter 'X', which was then kissed in this tradition of displaying a sacred oath.
There appears to be speculation on the internet (so far one original source stating this as speculation), that the 'O' is of North American descent: when arriving to the United States, Jewish immigrants, most of whose first language was Yiddish, would use an 'O' to sign documents, thus not using the sign of the cross, and shop keepers would often use an 'O' when signing documents, in place of an 'X'.
- "XOXO where did x and o come from?". Hugkiss.com. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. "The custom goes back to the early Christian era, when a cross mark or "X" was the same as a sworn oath. The cross referred to the cross of Calvary and the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos."
- "Why Does X Stand for a Kiss?". Trivia-Library.com. This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them.
- How did "XOXO" come to mean hugs and kisses? - Ask Yahoo!
- "XOXO where did x and o come from?". Hugkiss.com. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. "In "The Joys of Yiddish" by Leo Rosten, it is noted that illiterate immigrants (or those who did not know Roman-English letters) would generally sign entry forms with an "X" but Jews preferred an "O" to avoid making something that looked like a cross. Also, shopkeepers and salesmen would similarly sign receipts with a circle. Could this be the origin of the "O"?"
- Why Does "XOXO" Mean "Kisses and Hugs"? - Mental Floss
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