I'm curious - I've heard so many stories surrounding Christmas that I want to know what your take on the holiday's history is.
Pagan celebrations like the Winter Solstice or year-end festivals go back to prehistoric times.
One story that rings true involves the Roman Empire and its trouble with early Christian communities:
Some Roman provincial authorities had difficulty getting early Christians to pay "tribute" in public holiday events that were an important part of the Roman calendar. It was very important that all realms of the Empire pay proper "tribute" or "respect" to Roman authority and Roman gods/religion.
Many wise Roman governors quickly learned that by "tailoring" Roman year-end festivals with local pagan-ritual traditions; and mixing in the new Christian ideas, (Christ's Birthday, etc.), many of these new religious zealots could be duped into obeying Roman laws and giving public tribute to federal authority!
Everybody has a good time and nobody gets hurt.
By the end of the Roman Era, celebrations at year-end or the Winter Solstice were a universal of human cultures worldwide.
Well, that's my favorite version of how we all got Christmas, but like I said, I've heard a lot of stories surrounding this holiday.
People didn't start celebrating Jesus' birthday until early 300 AD. By then records of his birth were long lost. I agree December 25th was chosen more than likely to compete with pagan festivals such as the Winter Solstice which took place within the same week.
Hanukkah falls on the 25th of the Hebrew calender. Since Jesus was a Jew that might have been a factor for the date. Also this was before the adaption of the Gregorian Calendar which is off a few day from the then used Julian calendar. This means Christmas should actually be on January 7. That would also fall more in line to when Jesus' baptism is celebrated.
The word Christmas is being replaced by Holiday. The new tread is "Happy Holidays", "Holiday Lights" and a "Holiday Tree". It's all a bunch of PC bullshit to avoid pissing off the Jews, Atheist and Muslims. Funny the only people that seem to have issue with it are a few radicals Atheist. Most people could care less and want to call it Christmas. The history of the holiday and the nostalgia for most is Christmas. Many Jews celebrate Christmas in addition to Hanukkah.
It works out for most people. Like back in 300 AD most groups favorite festivities fall during the month of December. I just wish we could recognize all of them instead of using the cold politically correct Happy Holidays.