Christmas is OUR holiday
Christmas is not Christian, and has never been. In fact, we can even go so far as to say that the celebration of Christmas is anti-Christian.
This is not a surprising statement to anyone who has the merest knowledge of history. Even December 25th is not Christian. Emperor Aurelius established it in the third century as the birthday of the Invincible Sun - Sol Invictus - and Christians stole the date in an attempt to co-opt the celebrations (which is appropriate for the pale Jewish imitation of the Sun Gods). This is where the idea of "Jesus' birthday" also came from, as traditionally Christians, always the worshippers of suffering and death, appropriately celebrated death dates, not birth dates.
Everything that is part of Christmas celebrations - Santa Claus and his legends, the feast, the family reunion, the mistletoe, the turkey, the eggnog, the gift-giving, and the good will towards all men, all originated in Saturnalia, Yule, and other ancient celebrations. There is absolutely nothing Christian in them, apart from the Nativity scene, but most of the elements in those (the baby god, stable, the three shepherds) were taken from Mithraism.
Finally, Christians have constantly opposed Christmas and its evolution into today's holiday. The Bible admonishes believers not to decorate trees and put gifts under them (Jeremiah 3:13, Jeremiah 10:3-4). Christmas was banned twice - once in Britain in the 17th century and once by the Puritains.
It is in fact commercialism that saved Christmas from Puritain depravity, by restoring its peaceful, material roots. But Christians even protested Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" because they thought it was crass, heretical and Pagan. In recent times, Christians have taken to claim it as their own, once again showing their non-stop attempt to steal other people's holidays, as well as the complete vacuity of their religion (no surprises there on any count).
So I think the conclusion is clear : Christmas is not a Christian holiday by any stretch of the imagination, if we take the historical approach. In fact, if anything, it is a Pagan holiday, because it comes from Pagan religions, and an atheistic holiday, because it traditionally celebrated the passage of winter, the return of the Sun, and the celebration of material goods (initially, red meat and wine).
However, I also contend that Christmas belongs to us not only historically but also morally.
Now look at this for a minute. What are the moral aspects of Christmas ? I think few people would argue with me if I choose : feasting, giving and receiving gifts, family - especially children - charity, and peace and good will towards all. Now let's look at each in turn.
Nothing in the Bible encourages feasting. There is a verse that encourages drinking, but only to dull your suffering (Proverbs 31:6-7). In fact, the Catholic Church made gluttony a "deadly sin". Christianity is definitely against "worldly" pleasures, and feasting is one of those. So this element goes against the spirit of Christianity.
The only thing the Bible has to say about material possessions is that they are bad unless they are used to glorify God. The character of "Jesus", an apocalyptic cult leader, advocated the surrender of material goods in favour of spiritual rewards (Matthew 6:19, Luke 12:33, John 6:27). The exchange of such goods for material rewards (such as feeling good) goes clearly against the spirit of "Jesus"' commandments as well as the rejection of worldly pleasure.
* Family, especially children
Once again, "Jesus" explicitly advocated against this value, urging people to break up their families (Luke 14:26, Matthew 19:29). Children are valued in the Bible, but only as examples of what a gullible mind should be like. There is nothing in the Bible that values children for who they are - in fact, there are quite harsh and deadly punishments for children who dare to express any rebellious feelings (including the famous tale of the children who were mauled by bears sent by God, because they insulted someone, in 2 Ki 2:23-24). So the Christmas attitude of cultivating children's dreams and imaginations is clearly anti-Christian.
Jesus said that the poor would always be with us, and that his well-being was more important than helping them (Mark 14:7). The Bible also states that the less fortunate should drink their worries away (Proverbs 31:6-7). So while the right-wing nuts are often wrong about what the Bible says, in this case they are right - charity is not a Christian value. And the Bible, as I pointed out, advocates the abandonment of material goods, so why should we help others obtain them ?
* Peace and good will
Do I even need to explain why a religion whose fulfillment is the massacre of two-thirds of the world, does not value peace and good will to all men ? I have also written on why Christianity is the opposite of personal and social peace. Christianity's fruits are war, oppression, turmoil, and the religious objectification of others - the opposite of Christmas.
Generosity, abundance, family and peace are all secular values, not Christian values. Christmas is about material abundance and material comforts. Because of this, I think Christmas is our best advocate for secular values and materialism. Everyone can get behind Christmas. And that's the essence of what the rational life is all about. There's a moment in the movie "Wings of Desire" (a great atheist movie by the way) that always brings a tear to my eye, when Peter Falk gives this little monologue to an angel he can't see :
Here, to smoke, have coffee. And if you do it together it's fantastic. Or to draw: you know, you take a pencil and you make a dark line, then you make a light line and together it's a good line. Or when your hands are cold, you rub them together, you see, that's good, that feels good! There's so many good things! But you're not here - I'm here. I wish you were here. I wish you could talk to me. 'Cause I'm a friend.
To me that represents the essence of the rational life right there ! You don't need to say anything more. Who needs to believe in all this tribal nonsense when you have LIFE ?
So the next time you meet a Christian, don't forget to tell them they are welcome to our holiday, and wish them a MERRY CHRISTMAS !
And what do I think about Falwell and the fundies fighting to enforce the name "Christmas" ? I'm flattered that they want to fight for our holiday, and want to make themselves useful for the first time in their lives, but they might want to think about getting actual jobs first.