Christmas: Really A Religious Holiday?

Christmastime is upon us. For the majority of Americans, this means that it is time to start wondering what cool things you will get for your family, and if someone will buy you an iPhone or ‘Superbad’ on DVD. Many Christians claim that Christmas is a day that we should remember as Jesus’ birthday and that we should never forget it. Along the same line of thought, some non-Christians don’t celebrate Christmas because they claim it is a Christian holiday. But are these claims true?
Let’s review the facts about Christmas. In 350 A.D., Christmas began as an appropriation of pagan winter solstices. Before Christianity, pagans celebrated the Sun or a pagan god around the end of December. After Christianity gained political power in the West, Christian leaders declared that Jesus’s birth would be celebrated on Dec. 25 in order to make the switch from paganism to Christianity easier for the masses. Theologians are certain, however, that Jesus was born sometime during the spring, not the winter. Christmas was patterned after pagan holidays, and has nothing to do with Jesus.
Some Christmas traditions as we know them started well before Christianity was originated. The tradition of singing carols began in the Roman Empire, and the practice of putting trees and wreaths in the home was started in Northern Europe. Other elements, like Santa Claus, snowmen and elves, are modern and unrelated to religion.
Christmas is a holiday when we give gifts to and receive gifts from people we care about. Christmas is a joyful holiday because we are able to enjoy seeing our girlfriends’, boyfriends’, family members’ and friends’ happy faces when we give them gifts. It is a benevolent holiday, embracing the exchange of nice things among nice people.
Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus; that is an easy point to make, but is Christmas in line with religion in general? Is there such a thing as a benevolent and religious holiday?
How does this relate to Christianity and more importantly, to the essential nature of all religions? First, what is religion? Religion is a type of philosophy that embraces the supernatural (that there is something ‘beyond’ the natural world that we can’t see with our senses