I am not Christian (capital "C" -- although my best friend from high school who was the most pious Catholic I knew and who had gone on to become a nun told me I was the best christian (small case "c") she knew). However, with my childhood in a mostly Catholic town (and my best friend) and now my husband of so many years (a very Catholic-practicing agnostic) with his now-late parents who were the most religious Catholics I have known, I find myself fairly well versed in Jesus. Christians may lament the commercialization or (re-)paganization of Christmas, but they have not seen the benefits of Christmas's far-reaching influence.
For one thing, there is probably not one corner of the world in which someone has not
heard of Christmas. And, yes, for many, Christmas means elves, reindeer, decorations and gift-giving/receiving and the beginning of winter* in earnest (snow and all that).
A favorite part of Christmas, for me, is anticipation. While Thanksgiving remains my favorite (all-American holiday), the anticipation of snow in the outside air, carols on the radio air and the smells of cooking and baking in the kitchen air is sublime. So, whether it's secular or not, it's all Christmas. Hail the Advent.
And, hail to Advent calendars. We have so many really great ones, some very religious and some perhaps less so, but like the Nativity scene with the empty crib awaiting Baby Jesus, all anticipating the celebration of the birth of Christ.
*Or, summer -- if we are really being global. When I was still in Beijing, China in July, I and an Australian friend were dragging ourselves around hot and dusty Beijing Language Institute, with my singing Christmas carols to cool down and he protesting, because Christmas meant HOT, HOT, HOT weather back home.
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