The roots of the word “Christmas” involve two kinds of liberation (of and from the masses) and some shortening:
1. “Christ” was born of the Latin term for a Greek translation of the Aramaic version of a Hebrew word, respectively Christus, khristos, mĕšīḥā, mashiah.
2. “Mashiah” means the anointed, a shortened version of the “Lord’s anointed.” It refers to smearing oil on someone to indicate they had a divine office or task.
3. “Messiah” in English dates from 1560 when the creators of the Geneva Bible used it as a Hebrew sounding translation of Christus (before that Jesus was typically described as “hæland” = “healer, saviour”).
5. That liberator aspect is why Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion was used only on those convicted of sedition or rebellion against Roman rule.
6. The view that Jesus was crucified with thieves rests on a loose translation of “lestes” = Greek for “bandits,” a catchall term that includes robbers but also those involved in “anti-Roman activities.”
7. The tail end of Christmas is a slightly shortened version of the Christian sense of “mass,” which comes from the Latin “missa” = dismissal, or release.
8. It likely derives from the end of the Eucharist service “Ite, missa est,” which means “Go, (the prayer) has been sent.” It marked the liberation of the masses from the service (eucharist itself means thanksgiving).
However you interpret (or translate) this: Happy Holidays.
And give thanks for the happiness your liberties enable.
PS Happiness should be a verb.
PPS New limits are needed for the logic of liberty to be workable.
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.