The ancient tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice and the new tradition of complaining about a War on Christmas has passed. Many cultures observe holidays that stem from the ancient practice of celebrating the Winter Solstice, a tradition that existed long before any religions were invented, even though some may know it by a different name and celebrate with their own traditions.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday, whatever you call it, and celebrated it in ways that were important to you. I also hope you took the time to wish others a good and happy life, now and always. It is one of the ways many cultures celebrate the Winter Solstice.

There are many traditional ways of wishing others well; Gift giving, dinner with friends and family, and helping out those less fortunate than yourself. Whether you say, “Happy holidays,” “Happy Hanukah,” “Merry Christmas” or any other cultural sayings, what’s important is to “live and let live” — to wish others well without forcing your interpretation of the Winter Solstice upon them.

Unfortunately some Christians celebrate Christmas by complaining that greeting others with “Happy holidays” is a sign of disrespect for their interpretation of the Winter Solstice; the birth of the Christian savior. They claim the natural celestial event of the shortest day of the year must be called Christmas and the official greeting must be “Merry Christmas.” E.J. Dionne Jr, a Washington Post columnist, asked, “What in the world is ‘Christian’ about insisting on saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to a devout Jew or Hindu who might reasonably view the statement as a sign of disrespect (of their own interpretation of the Winter Solstice)?”

What Christians call Christmas is simply a Christian religious holiday created by hijacking the secular Winter Solstice celebrations. As James Frazier, author of The Golden Bough, writes, “… it appears that the Christian Church chose to celebrate the birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was called the Sun of Righteousness.” Many gods were invented long before the Christian god who had the same characteristics Christians attribute uniquely to Jesus: Born to a virgin around the Winter Solstice with a star in the east, became a prophet at 12, baptized at 30 and began their ministry. Had 12 disciples, healed the sick, walked on water and turned water into wine. Known as The Truth, The Light, The Good Shepherd and The Lamb of God. Betrayed by a disciple, killed, buried for three days, resurrected and went to heaven.

Horus, the Egyptian sun god, known as The Light and The Way, personified the battle between light and darkness, between good and evil, the primary qualities shared by the invented gods.

Krishna of India, born of a virgin with a star in the east, performed miracles, had 12 disciples and was resurrected three days after death.

Dionysus of Greece, born of a virgin, performed miracles such as turning water into wine, was known as King of Kings and The Alpha and Omega and was resurrected three days after death.

Mithra of Persia, born of a virgin, had 12 disciples, performed miracles, was known as The Truth and The Light, was buried for three days, resurrected and went to heaven.

Is it reasonable to conclude that the Christian god is the exclusive “reason for the season” when so many other gods with the same characteristics existed long before Christianity? History shows that allowing one religion to determine how everyone, believers and non-believers alike, must celebrate the holiday leads to conflict, not world peace.

One holiday that will help us focus on attaining peace for all, and not just for believers, is Human Rights Day. Celebrated on Dec. 10, it honors the U.N. adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. The United Nations website states: “The document outlines the minimum human rights standards that should be available in all countries of the world. They include ‘the right to life, liberty and nationality, to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to work, to be educated, [and] to take part in government.’ In 2011, a movement is growing to add equal treatment for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities to the human rights specified by the UDHR.”

I urge you to celebrate your holiday in ways that allow others to do the same.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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