Put Thor Back in Yuletide*
I was doing some googles and wikis recently looking for appropriate terminology for my cat's holiday cards. My cat's name is Poly and, yes, we already used "Happy Poly-days" last year. It seemed too soon to recycle. Being a not-xtian myself, I prefer my Winter Solstice celebration greetings to be non-x-mas'y. Despite Ronald Reagan's declaration in the 80s of American being a "Christian Country," I find more and more that my friends believe a variety of things about a god or gods who treat them in a variety of fashions, but we all can get excited about a holiday that celebrates the return of the sun.
In case you've been lucky enough to avoid it, you probably know that Bill O'Reilly and others of his ilk each year complain that the liberals and the hippies are trying to stop good Americans from celebrating the birth of their lord. What those who rally around these imaginary slights don't know is that the Christians usurped a variety of pre-christian solstice celebrations, added some coca-cola, and called it Christmas. Take, for example, the Mithraists of ancient Rome. Their celebration takes place three days after the Solstice (roughly December 25). On the Solstice, the sun stands still--that's what Solstice means. Three days after, the sun is reborn to collect his TWELEVE DISCIPLES (12 signs of the Zodiac) and walk the earth again.
They've stolen the word "yule" outright. Yule (or hjol in Old Norse) refers to the moment the sun begins to turn after it's low point (the solstice). It's clear that the Yule Log was taken from the Northern Europeans--there was not a lot of log burning in the Bible. Even the traditional Christman pig was taken from the Icelandic Yule celebration, where a pig was sacrificed for their god Freyr. Why else would we eat a pig on the day a great Jew was born? Because of those goddamn pagans.
The Christians borrowed a lot from the old religions, and who can blame them? There's no reason to reinvent holidays when ones already exist, and how better to convert the pagans than to be celebrating the return of the sun and to really be celebrating the birth of Jesus? See, you godless heathens, you can still have your glorious pig and wonderful log and 12 disciples!
We all know the Christians were persecuted and eaten back in the day. I feel like the Christians are the hot, successful supermodel who breaks down on The Surreal World and cries about how everyone teased her when she was a kid. Perhaps they need some therapy to let go of this complex they still carry with them.
* there's a really interesting article online here