The weather is dreary in the northeast this xmas. No white xmas. Actually I enjoy this season, but not for its commercial and religious aspects. The worst, for me, is the frantic shopping--which I don't do but can't escape the mobs. The other is the very annoying xmas music, everywhere all the time. Seriously, folks, how many times do you need to hear the same songs? Do you need them to get into the spirit of the holidays? Really? Oh, maybe this is the besieged fighting the war against xmas.
You know, xmas is based on pagan traditions, like Saturnalia, celebrations of the winter solstice, decorating trees, exchanging gifts, superstitions, miracles and what-have-you. It was the xtian church's attempt to insert its influence during this time, not because Christ was born in December--he was not. By the 17th century, the religious celebrations in December were dead. During the Victorian era, and later in the new colonies in America, a few people plus commercial interests brought xmas back.
In the US, Washington Irving made up lots of stories about Pilgrims and other Europeans celebrating "traditions" during this time. Irving's satirical The Knickerbocker History was a made up story about the people in "new Amsterdam" (New York), but people took it as old history. Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol added to the aura. Nostalgia, search for new themes with the rapidly changing society due to industrialization. Queen Victoria brought the decorated holiday tree into people's houses and to the English-speaking world; German-speaking people and Scandinavians already had this tradition that dated back to pagan Rome! There were some who didn't like this new trend: The Puritans, first in Britain and then in New England outlawed xmas. This of course is in line with the xtian view that you don't celebrate birthdays but instead the day you die, since this is the moment you join God in heaven. All the saints are celebrated on the day of their death! St Nicholas died on Dec. 6th, by the way.
Now, how about this St. Nick? This guy must have been awesome, performing miracles like Jesus--raising the dead, walking on water (easy part), fixed the weather, brought peace on earth, and gave gifts to nice children who sat on his lap. The new and improved Santa (Claws) looks much different than the original model, but, hey, Sinta Claus and his "other half" Krampus aren't as jolly as our fat Santa.
I'm all for having fun, take time to spend time with friends and relatives, be extra nice to those around us, and live life every moment while creating meaningful memories. This is the meaning of the winter holidays for me. I can't celebrate the birth of a deity who designed a flawed product, created and still allows so much misery and suffering. No decent deity, no benevolent father would offer such a horrible deal.