For all who believe the Lord Jesus is the light of their life in the dark of winter, Merry Christmas.
To Jesus and all his countrymen and women, Happy Chanuka! (It's not his birthday - that was calculated by astrologers to be April 17, 7 BCE - the date the Magi would have said the King of the Jews would be born when a major conjunction was evident in Aries, the sign of ancient Israel).
To pagans, wiccans and hard partiers, Good Yule! Of course, the actual feast was the solstice a few days ago and the big party is next week on December 31, so why not split the difference, eh?
Saturnalia and pagan themes keep creeping into the holiday. They should. People need a good party when the days get short and the nights get long. In ancient times, the solstice and related Saturnalia was on December 25. The Gregorian calender places it on December 21, although it would have been more thoughtful to make it January 1 - although that was too much pagan symbolism for St. Gregory.
We now know that pagan symbolism is not really about idol worship. Instead, it is about attempting to understand the human condition. There is something in the human condition that demands togetherness and a bit of revelry when the shadows get long. While spirituality has its place in this equation, for most people there is nothing wrong with letting go once in a while (and for others there is Midnight Mass and marathon AA meetings). As a society, we should realize this and possibly move the New Year to what is now the winter solstice. Christmas can be celebrated on either the preceding Sunday or the following Sunday, whichever is closer. Of course, if we wanted a stable calander, January 1 (the solstice) could be a Sunday, with additonal days to make sure it always lands there added between June 30 and July 1 (with July 31 taken away). Map it out for yourself - it works. Christmas can still be December 25, on what is now December 18th, or on January 7th, what is now December 28th. I have a feeling businesses would rather have the earlier day, for tax purposes and because shopping is easier when it is warmer. As we found out this week - so is travel.