It's the Holiday Season.
Bet you didn't need me to point that out. Every time you turn around - from about September - we are reminded that it is the holiday season. The "holiday season" has gotten so long I'm pretty sure it's going to soon incorporate every holiday in the calendar year.
So - what holidays is this season for? The big ones always mentioned are of course: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and Ramadan (though Ramadan moves throughout the year) and Hanukkah is not one of the major Jewish holy days (those fall in September or October).
Oh - did I forget one?
Actually, I forgot two: Christmas and Christmas.
Now - you're thinking, that's it, she's finally lost her mind - that's only one holiday.
No. It's two. We just don't like to acknowledge it. There is Christmas - the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. That is a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church - and a special feast day in other Christian churches as well. On that day Christians throughout the world celebrate and commemorate the wonderful gift that God gave us when Jesus was born of a Virgin in a lowly stable. God came into the world. We were no longer separated by him as we had been since the Fall (of Adam and Eve). It was a momentous occasion and one that is memorialized by Nativity scenes and songs such as "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger". Other traditions of the day include getting together with family or friends and exchanging gifts - a token of love - in honor of the wonderful gift we were given by God.
Then there is the other holiday also known as Christmas. That holiday is a celebration of love and friendship and good cheer among people often by making sure that their heart's desires are met and lots of money is spent to make them happy. Am I being too skeptical? I don't think so - have you seen the ads on TV lately? The theme of this holiday is being nice to one another and spending money on each other. The symbols of this holiday are a fat man in a red suit and snow men and candy canes. It is a fun holiday which also packs a lot of stress as people try to figure out how to buy the heart's desire of their family and friends - without also going broke.
This second Christmas has an ideal that includes perfectly decorated homes, wonderful home baked treats, tasteful (or not so tasteful) light decorations outside the house. This celebration has lots and lots of songs and lots of movies - all of which have a way of showing just how happy we should all be.
Some people only celebrate the first Christmas; more people only celebrate the second. But many people celebrate both Christmases. They are not completely incompatible. In fact many of the aspects of the second Christmas come from within the first: lights (inside and out) symbolize Christ as the light of the world); Santa Claus (St. Nicholas); Wreathes (evergreen and circular - because God's love never dies - and has no beginning and no end).
Somewhere along the line the two holidays diverged though. I'm in favor of changing the name of either one or the other - so we can remember the first Christmas - while still enjoying the secular trappings of the second. Perhaps: Nativity and Christmas; or Christmas and Yule. Christmas and Christmas just gets too confusing - because it leads people to believe there is only one holiday - when as I just showed, there are really two.