I had just barely turned six when my mother & father divorced; I was seven & a half when my father remarried. I don't remember when my smom ("mama") actually moved in, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't long after the divorce. She came with a baby girl.
The winter I was seven, I had already been questioning the whole "Santa" thing, so I decided to ask my mama for the truth. She took my hand, led me into their bedroom, picked me up, and placed me on their giant waterbed.
She told me a story about a man a long time ago who gave gifts to the children of a poor village, swearing me to secrecy for my little brother & sister. I don't remember all the details, of course, but I do remember the feeling of happiness that came over me. I remember thinking that I hoped to someday be able to do those things for not only my own family, but for the families of those who cannot afford to so do themselves.
Every year after, I chose a child's tag from a giving tree; I spent my own money (which wasn't much -- we were a poor family, as well), from allowances or birthday gifts. For most of the last 30 years, I've been doing this. There were a few years as an adult that I couldn't even afford gifts for my own family...
As smaller children, we went to church (first Methodist, then Nazarene) on Sundays, & Sunday School during the summer. At the age of 13 or so, I was given the choice to no longer attend. I've never really believed in any deity, so I chose to stop going. However, our family, like many others, always referred to the school break as "Christmas Vacation", and the holiday by its Christian name.
As a child, none of this really bothered me (although, I always skipped over the "under god" part of the Pledge of Allegiance in school). But, as an adult, I got to thinking about it... and it bothered me a lot. For the majority of people who call themselves "Christian" (or, at least, the majority of the ones I have come into contact with over the years), the idea of "Christmas" is rooted in Jesus' birth (& boy, are some people RUDE about it!).
I've said before, but I'll say it again for those who are pretty new to my blog, (1) no one knows when Jesus was born. Current estimates put it in the spring. (2) Pagans have been celebrating the winter solstice longer than traditional "Christmas" has been around. (3) Many other winter celebrations include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, & Saturnalia.
I realized that a lot of so-called "Christians" are very narrow-minded in their view of the holiday season (not *all*, of course), and I started to wonder if they even knew & understood the origins of their own celebrations. I also started to ask myself why I continued to refer to it as "Christmas" if I no longer identified with "Christians".
I remembered the feeling I had as a child when told the story of Santa, and the "warm & fuzzies" I had every time I was able to buy another child a gift, and I decided that the idea of Santa is the embodiment of what the season is truly about... giving. I started to refer to the holiday as "Santamas" -- *mas* is Spanish for more... so, "More Giving".
True, there are a lot of "Christians" I know who will always argue with me about the "true meaning of Christmas"... But, I know what I believe; and giving has nothing to do with religious beliefs.