I work in retail. We don't say "Merry Christmas" when we answer the phone or when we say goodbye to customers, we say "Happy Holidays." Not everyone celebrates Christmas at this time of year, but it's a rather pathetic attempt to be politically correct. There are Christmas trees everywhere, Christmas decorations, Christmas music, Christmas sales, Christmas clothes, and everyone is shopping for Christmas presents. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. It's inescapable. For some, it's too much and they hate it. Others like it, and some don't care too much about it.
When a customer says "Merry Christmas" to me, it's physically impossible for me to reply with "Happy Holidays."
Not everyone knows the true origin of Christmas or the reason we celebrate the way we do at this time of year. But Christians believe it's the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, which is fine. However, a lot of the Christmas-y things we do don't have much to do with this religion. You could then say that Christians celebrate their own version of Christmas, perhaps with Jesus at the centre.
Many others celebrate their own version of Christmas, too, even if they're not Christian. The only difference is that Jesus isn't the star of the celebration. Christmas has turned into something that everyone can participate in.
I'm an Atheist, and I love Christmas. I really do. I love the lights, the decorations, the pictures of snowy scenes with merry children building snowmen, and I like Christmas carols - even the religious ones. I love getting together with my family, dressing up a little, making a big deal about the delicious meals we'll eat. But the main event at Christmastime, after we've stuffed our faces with the most delicious foods that we've been waiting all year to eat, is the gift-giving.
Absolutely, stores love this time. Consumerism is bad, bla bla bla. And maybe some people do get carried away. But to sit around a beautifully lit-up tree with the people you care about to give them gifts that you have lovingly wrapped, and watch their faces light up when they find something that they really wanted tucked inside tissue paper that has been used for at least three Christmases already, is just really nice. The look on their faces when they find a perfect gift, or a funny gift, a gift that has some kind of meaning or that shows that you care and have been listening, is probably my favourite thing. This can include things you've made for them, too: their favourite treat, a mixed CD of their favourite kind of music or new music, a decoration, a photograph, whatever. It's so they know that you've thought of them. It's so that they feel loved.
Gift-giving around the Christmas tree (and eating) is what my Christmas is centred around. For some it's about the food or the company or Santa or the kids waking up early to open their presents, and for others it's about Jesus. But for a lot of people, it's a combination of these things. The variations of Christmas traditions are endless, especially when you factor in other traditions like having the Yule Log or mistletoe, both of which I never recall seeing in our home.
But whatever your version, whether you have a ceramic nativity scene set or a Flying Spaghetti Monster tree-topper, Christmas is for everyone. Call it Saturnalia, call it Yule, call it Pastamas - whatever the name, the sentiment is the same. Get together with the people you love (this means friends, too), set your differences aside, decorate a tree, share meals, give gifts, and spread joy during some of the darkest and coldest days of the year.
And I know I've posted this before, but I especially feel like this when I'm putting together a box for a customer: