The "War on Christmas" has been manufactured by the religious right, as a way of mobilizing troops against secularization. My father and I were talking about this the other day. As far back as he can remember, people would say "happy holidays" or "season's greetings," and he was born in 1932. As far as I can tell, it is only an issue this year because of Wal-Mart's decision to use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in store decorations. And then Boston was attacked for calling the tree lighting ceremony on the Common a "Holiday Tree Lighting." That drove Pat Robertson ape. Big fucking deal.
Now we are being manipulated into believing that atheists, communists, socialists, and (gasp!) the ACLU are out to kill Santa Claus. Why is the right-wing doing this? To raise money, of course. In January, their cofers will be full and they will turn their attention to "intelligent design" and getting Samuel Alito confirmed.
Every year people get into discussions about the origins of Christmas. We know that Christmas predates Christianity. Before the reformation of the Julian calendar, the winter solstice fell on December 25. The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia during the solstice, to honor Saturn, the god of agriculture.
Nothing Christian about that.
It's impossible to know for sure, but most scholars say that the birth of Jesus likely came in the spring. But we celebrate it in December as a way of taking attention away from a pagan celebration. Once the wine is out, people don't care what they're celebrating. The first observation of Christmas as the birthday of Jesus wasn't until the late 4th century AD.
Worshiping the god of agriculture makes more sense to me than celebrating Jesus' birthday a few months too early. So I say, put Saturn back on Christmas.
Happy Saturnalia, everyone!