It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And Yule. And Saturnalia. And Chanukkah, and Kwanza.
I see Wal-mart has gone back to saying 'Happy Christmas' instead of 'Happy Holidays'. Am I offended by that? Given how many non-christians there are in the world, wouldn't a secular greeting be better? No, and no.
Anyone who seriously thinks that Jesus was born on December 25th needs their head examined. The date was (supposedly) picked sometime in the 3rd century because it was a good way to cover existing religous festivals with Christianity, such as Yule (The Winter Solstice), Saturnalia (festival of Saturn), Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Day of the conquered Sun in Roman times, which was when Mithras was honored). It was also considered the birthday of Horus.
So with all the non christian elements of the season, why don't I have a problem with people saying 'Merry Christmas' to me, and why do I say it right back?
Because Christmas is magical - in a way that transcends any religion, it is the one time of the year where everyone tries to be a little nicer to each other. Where the Asshole Quotient drops a few points.
Where there is always, just out of earshot, the sound of bells on a sleigh somewhere.
The nights are a little brighter, enhanced by the lights from decorations perhaps, but also by the glow from our hearts. It's a time when miracles happen. Not because God suddenly decrees that is what will happen, but because we choose to make our own miracles.
Someone will get a thought in their head - "Wouldn't it be cool if..." and somewhere in the world a lonely person suddenly finds they're not lonely anymore...Or a child gets a toy - or a mother gets food for her baby.
Christmas is a time of miracles precisely because it is not about Christianity. It is about the one time of the year when so many of the worlds people celebrate - in their own way, and with their own faiths - the fact that they have made it through another year, and they feel good about that. Good enough to share what they have with others less fortunate.
Everytime we feel that way, we incrementally make the world a better place. And it needs to be a better place. So make someone happy this Christmas. Make them warm, or loved, or sated or safe.
Make a miracle happen, so that the magic of Christmas can carry us all safely into another year.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night :)