A quick history lesson regarding some of the ancient pagan traditions of the holiday season that have endured to this day.
I thought I would elaborate more on where Christmas, Kwanza, and Hanukkah really come from. It's a tradition that goes back LONG before our modern, most popular religions were even thought of.
Saturnalia - it was the feast where the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which took place on 17 December. During this time it was also customary to decorate trees special offering logs. Over the years Saturnalia expanded to a whole week, and ran through to the 23rd of December. In the vagaring Roman calendar the Winter Solstice (celebration of the birth of the Sun) fell in this period; in imperial times that event was celebrated in honour of Sol Invictus and put on 25 December by emperor Aurelian in 274, after the Saturnalia.
During Saturnalia it was custom to give presents to family and friends, most often in the form of food. Then, on the 25th, they celebrated the birth of the God Mithras (born in a cave via a virgin mother). Mithraism predates Christianity by 15 centuries. Thanks to my pal Rofocal for this last bit of information (regarding the virgin birth) because I didn't know that. But I looked it up and it is part of Mithraism's recorded mythology. :)
So no one should feel guilty or excluded when celebrating the holiday season even if they're not of the aforementioned faiths. The end of year celebration of the solstice, birth, generosity, and good will towards our fellow man is a HUMAN tradition that goes back a long time and it seems to me there is nothing wrong in partaking regardless what you believe.
But I also think it's important for us to know where much of this comes from. It seems to me far too many people are ignorant of any human history, especially theological history, predating the rise of Christianity and that is the fault of our religious leaders. They effectively brainwashed us and were almost successful in eradicating any history showing that the current Judeo Christian religious holidays are nothing more than re-packaged pagan holidays. They did this in order to convert our ancestors to the new religions. I realized how true this was when I started talking to modern American Christians, 9 out of 10 who didn't know about the inquisition, and who didn't believe a Christian could do anything so terrible.
The purpose of this article is to not make anyone question their faith, but rather to understand where our holiday traditions actually come from.