As difficult as it is to believe, Christmas is not exactly the calm and holy day you believe it to be. It began as a day of murder, drunkenness, cannibalism, and outright debauchery: Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed (just like our own court system), and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the week long celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman. In addition to human sacrifice, Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) mentions these customs: widespread intoxication (Eggnog); going from house to house while singing naked (Caroling perhaps?); rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (can you say Gingerbread Men?). In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia (Gee, ya think?). To remedy this, Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, to be Jesus’ birthday.
Over the centuries these events have been wiped away, replaced with sweet and endearing stories of miracles to guide Christians to total Christmas/Jesus acceptance. We accept it, hook, line, and sinker. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy, it encourages us to be better people (for a few days anyway), it makes for great PR, and it gives us something to fight over (in true Saturnalia form).
Happy Holidays seems much easier than Merry (Ashura - Islam Saint Nicholas Day - Christian Bodhi Day(Rohatsu) - Buddhism Immaculate Conception - Catholic Christian Feast day - Our Lady of Guadalupe - Catholic Christian Posadas Navidenas through Dec. 25 - Christian Hanukkah - Jewish Solstice Yule - Christian Yule - Wicca/Pagan northern hemisphere Litha - Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere Christmas Eve - Christian Christmas - Christian Feast of the Nativity - Orthodox Christian Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) - Zoroastrian Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr - Christian Holy Innocents - Christian Feast of the Holy Family - Catholic Christian Watch Night - Christian) Day.. but that's just me.
Remember, for every time YOU feel slighted or angered by someone not telling you "Merry Christmas".. there are a TON of people you are pissing off every time you say those words to them.