Gift giving has become traditional, of course. Many little ones are raised with some sort of "Santa" tradition including Santa Claus characters of many names including Sintor Klaas (Belgium), Papai Noel (Brazil), Hotei-osho (Japan) Saint Nicholas (UK and many others), Nisse (Denmark), Babuska (Russia) and on and on.
There are also the traditions which honor the truly pagan roots of Christmas...such as the Roman and many northern European cultures that celebrate the Winter Solstice--the day of the least light and the longest night of the year. The Canadian "mummers" find their roots in Roman times (entertainers who go from house to house during time of Solstice). The yule log (celebration of the sun), mistletoe (fertility rite) and the Christmas tree (symbolic of good luck and fertility as well).
It was in 350 AD that the Roman Catholic pope Julius I decreed that Christmas or the celebration of Christ's birth would be on the 25th of December- an unlikely date for a birth as described in the New Testament - probably to make it less painless for the Roman pagans to be converted to Christianity. In the 1500's the celebration of Christ-Mass as we know it today began in Germany either by the Catholics or the Lutherans - no one really knows for sure.
There is no doubt, however, that Christmas has become a universal festival, celebrated by people of different cultures in their own unique way.
Our Christmas is very Christian based, echoing my wife's and my Anglican and Catholic upbringing. The centerpiece of our Christmas and the most lasting symbol is the Nativity creche that was passed down from Maryann's parents.
This is one of many Christmas Nativities that my wife and I own. We have always had a love for the Holy Family and the Madonna and Child so our "focus decor" is all about that and for most of the year. Here's an example of one of the "permanent collection." This Madonna and Child (or Peasant Woman and Babe) measures about 18 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It was one of the first very special pieces we purchased many years ago...it is a Lladro gres piece. which we love dearly.
I could go on and on with pics of Nativity Scenes but I'll stop here.
The above, of course, are just symbols but ones that some find objectionable and have gone to court to have removed based on public policy. How silly. Just as silly as this:
As I said in my opening, Christmas, which is a traditional holiday, can and is celebrated by many from different faiths and beliefs...and non-believers as well. It is celebrated by billions of people throughout the world both as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus as well as a cultural holiday of many different beliefs. The one thing all have in common is what I generally respond to folks whom I wish a Merry Christmas privately...and I will say it to all of you. This year I wish you a Christmas holiday full of PEACE and LOVE and JOY for this time and throughout 2014.