Don't get me wrong - I care about other people's beliefs. In fact, I say "Happy Holidays" quite frequently around this time of year. But even though I am not Christian, I don't get offended when people say "Merry Christmas" to me. And yes, I celebrate the holiday.
As an agnostic, I celebrate Christmas - and say "Merry Christmas" - because it doesn't have anything to do with Christianity.
No doubt I've pissed a few people off now. But hey - where in the Bible does it say that December 25th is Jesus' birthday?
That's right. It doesn't.
In fact, December 25th was chosen as Jesus' birthday by the Romans, about 300 years after Jesus' death. And why did they choose December 25th? Because the people already celebrated December 25th as the birthday of the popular pagan deity at the time - Mithras, or Mithra, the sun god. That's right: Rome wanted the people to convert to Christianity, so they did a little jimmy-rigging to align Christianity's holy days with those of the religion the people already followed. (That's also why Christianity celebrates the Sabbath on Sunday, when the Sabbath is actually Saturday.)
And December 25th didn't first belong to Mithras, either... This day has been named the birthday of many gods throughout the ages, all the way back to Osiris, one of ancient Egypt's gods. So you see, there isn't anything special about December 25th, except that everyone likes it.
But what about the presents, you say? Aren't they reminiscent of those the three kings brought on the night of Jesus' birth?
Actually, the Christmas tradition of giving presents isn't original to Christianity, either. This tradition also goes back to ancient times. In Rome, the pagan god Saturn was believed to bring everyone gifts in December. And in Egypt, a deity named Bes brought presents to all the good children. Sound familiar?
That's right - there IS no Christ in Christmas, because all of the traditions that we have put together and called "Christmas" have been borrowed from other, more ancient religions.
This doesn't mean that Christmas cannot be a deeply holy day for you. Since we don't know the actual day of Jesus' birth, December 25th is as good a day as any. In other words, I don't really care how or why you celebrate Christmas.
I do care, though, when people start insisting, "Put Christ back into Christmas!" He wasn't the first one there, guys. To be perfectly fair, we should also then be putting Mithras back into Christmas. And Osiris. And Dionysus. And Thor. And... and... and...
Regardless of what religion you're coming from, though, the season is supposed to be about love and generosity, and I don't see anything generous about trying to deny other people their own reasons for celebrating. So whether you are celebrating Jesus' birthday, Mithras', or Osiris', or whether you simply are celebrating a season of giving, I wish you a...
Want more information?
Pagan Claus: The Real History of Christmas Customs
History of Christmas