In the name of full disclosure: I am Jewish, and I love Christmas.
It's pretty hard not to. How can you not feel all warm and fuzzy inside during a holiday that encourages people to spend time with their loved ones, embrace a whole canon of fascinating holiday folk lore, and create beautiful works of art?
That's why I always find it so strange to hear that annual complaint about a "war on Christmas." Yes, the holiday has been secularized to a large degree, but it's not like that prevent religious Christians from celebrating in their preferred way. So long as they're allowed to maintain their traditions, what is so terrible about expanding the yuletide cheer to those who might otherwise miss it?
Make no mistake, Christmas is still large and in charge. Here's why.
1. Christmas moves people to rein in their worst instincts.
This one is hard to quantify, but I've noticed it nonetheless — people seem to be more cheerful, kind-hearted, and trustworthy during the Christmas season than any other time of year. This tendency (like most of the items on this list) applies not only to observing Christians, but even people who don't directly observe the holiday. Good will seems infectious.
2. It gives kids the chance to be in charge.
Just as the Roman holiday of Saturnalia (which inspired many modern Christmas rituals) encouraged role reversal among its participants, there seems to be an informal rule in which children get to play boss around Christmas time. They get to miss school, eat all of the candy and junk food their hearts desire, and (of course) draw up elaborate wish lists of gifts. Speaking of which ...
3. The gifts! The gifts! The gifts!
Of course this article would lose all credibility if I didn't mention the presents. As a Channukah observer myself, I didn't miss out on this tradition ... and boy is it fun! This doesn't mean that we should succumb to the crass materialism rightly derided by the likes of Dr. Seuss, but at the same time, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the thrill of anticipation and gratification of a perfect gift received.
4. The catchy Christmas music.
Most holidays have a sub-genre of music, but I feel safe in speculating that none are as extensive, varied, or rich as that created to celebrate Christmas. Whether you're listening to classics like "Jingle Bells," awe-inspiring pieces like "Carol of the Bells," modern rock earworms like "Wonderful Christmastime," or dark comic masterpieces like "Don't Shoot Me Santa," the radio is a great place to go during the holidays.
5. The great Christmas cartoons.
Whether it's the Rankin/Bass stop motion classics, the immortal animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, or more recent fare like the SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas special, there is something perfect about the synthesis of holiday themes with the art of animation. After all, there has always been something otherworldly about stories told through animated media; what better match for Christmas?
6. The colors!
This might seem abstract, but it deserves mention that there are few holidays as aesthetically pleasing as Christmas. Most have their preferred palette — Valentine's Day with its reds and pinks, the Fourth of July with red, white, and blue, Halloween with orange, yellow, and black. But Christmas manages to include ALL of them.
7. The legendary Christmas movies (non-cartoons).
Last pop culture entry, I swear! What I particularly love about Christmas movies is how they range so dramatically in quality and tone. You get the ones that conjure up all of the sentimental and rebellious feelings of childhood, like Home Alone; the ones that tug at your heartstrings no matter how much time passes, like It's A Wonderful Life; and the ones that are hilariously awful, like Jingle All The Way. If you find yourself bored during Christmas season, you must not own a television.
8. The libations.
What do eggnog, berry sangria, angel's delight, and the holiday hopper have in common? Simple: They all keep the toes warm and the spirits loose at Christmas parties throughout America. If you're over 21, this requires no further elaboration (and if you're under 21, or planning on driving, lay off the booze).
9. The Christmas food!
I can deny it no longer: I love being invited to my friends' Christmas parties not for the carols, the good cheer, the relaxing atmosphere, or even the off-chance a stray gift might land my way, but because I love Christmas food! While others rightly worry about gaining those dreaded post-Thanksgiving pounds, Christmas meals have just the right mixture of sweet (cookies, candy canes, sugar-doused products everywhere), savory (slow-cooked meats galore), and of course alcohol (see above) to make any Christmas meal truly worthy of the designation "feast."
One of the best perks about being a non-Christian in a Christian society is that, regardless of your religious beliefs, the all-importance of family is so stressed on Christmas that even the biggest humbug proponent is forced to at least contemplate such subjects. Columnist Burton Hillis put it best:
"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."