Hugs and Kisses

You surely have come across ancestor’s letters and cards which had at least one or two ‘X’s’ and ‘Os’ on them We all recognize those marks / symbols as ‘hugs and kisses’. Yet, how did that practice or custom begin?

The “X” on letters stands for ‘kisses’, which dates back to the Middle Ages (about 500 AD to 1500 AD) in Europe. Back then the practice was to draw a Christian cross on documents or letters to represent sincerity, faith, and honesty. The signer of the document then kissed the cross to demonstrate their sworn oath to the cross. Over time the drawing of a cross became more of an ‘X’ drawing.

For the “O” it appears to have started in the United States in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Since may people used the ‘X’ to represent their signature since they could not write their name, it might be that Jewish immigrants to the United States, unwilling to use the cross or ‘X’, adopted the “O” instead.

Here is a famous person using the ”X’s”: Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, signed a letter with not one, but three kisses. He wrote: “Please excuse bad writing as I am in an awful hurry. xxx WSC.” He was giving many kisses.

Now all the ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ can also look like the game Tic-Tac-Toe. That game goes back to Egyptian and Roman times. But it was referred to as noughts and crosses. In the early 20th century in the United States, that name of the game gets changed to ‘Tic-tac-toe’. 

Today with much less hand-written notes and letters, the custom of ‘X’ and ‘O’ can still be practiced on Facebook or an email. So there can be many different emoticons but there remains a very traditional one. XOXO.

Related Blogs:

Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Collect Ancestors’ Signatures

Saving Valentines and Love Letters

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