Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year. Just kidding. That's not true. The day is still 24 hours long, and the same amount of light will strike our planet today as it did yesterday. It's a seasonal thing, and in the southern hemisphere just the reverse is true. There will be more light striking there than here, but the day will still last 24 hours.
We didn't know this until a relatively short time ago. In the distant past, as the days seemed to grow shorter, the ancients thought they were seeing the end of the world. But at some point, the days seemed to grow longer. Magic! Our ancestors didn't understand the universe's mechanics, but they celebrated the return of the sun, and it was one serious holiday. That's pretty much the story around the world. The universe - at least what we thought was the universe - sent us it's only sun.
Science explains this as cause and effect. However, a huge number of people still believe it's magic. Those people created a god or gods in their own image and insist these supernatural beings made this happen. They cannot see this god, and have never seen this god, but they know he is infinite, and if you didn't catch it, god is a male.
Somehow, the universe became god and the god sent his son in human form. In our culture, the god is largely based on the god of Abraham; a mean, vindictive, and frequently quite petty guy, but he would send us a messiah one day. Now, Abraham was a Jew, and his tribal descendants still believe the messiah never arrived. That Jesus fellow was just a troublemaker, and Jews were quite pleased to see him dispatched, even to the extent that they chose to keep a criminal among themselves rather than a guy who preached peace and love.
Christians believe in the same god as the Jews, but he was a different sort of god and he DID send a messiah; Jesus the Christ. Jesus told his followers that god was a really good guy and that he wasn't really all that mean and vindictive. Better yet, you could sin like crazy and still be heaven bound as long as you repented before your death.
Islam, is another Jewish sect and they too believe that the messiah hasn't arrived, but they think Jesus is an all right guy, and is pretty important in their religion.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claim that their religion is one of peace. History shows that millions of "followers" of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity had and still have hands that drip with the blood of innocents.
I write this in response to those who snivel about the totally nonsensical notion of a war on Christmas. Whether you celebrate the solstice, the changing of the season, the renewal, or whether you celebrate the birth of the Christ on a holiday that was taken from pagans, it's a celebration of life. That's where the giving begins. That's the beginning of a new year. A time to share the joy of life.
No. It's not a Christmas tree. Yes, it's a holiday/holy day tree. Whether it's about the sun/son, the significance of having another chance to redeem yourself........Well.......that's worth one grand celebration.