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Holidays, observances, and conflicts at Christmas time:

Part 1 of 4

Celebrations by, and friction among, various
faiths and cultures near the end of the year.

An inclusive point of view about celebrations and religious observances late in the year:

Holidays in late December 7

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An exclusive point of view advocating celebration of Christmas only:

Just say Merry Christmas 8

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The increase of religious diversity in the U.S.:

The U.S. has traditionally been a Protestant Christian nation. However Protestants are believed to have become a minority for the first time during 2006. 4 Meanwhile, according to the national ARIS study, about 75% of American adults currently identify themselves as Christians -- a number that is decreasing by about 0.8 percentage point per year. If this rate continues, Christianity will become a minority religion in the 2030s. Most Americans will then either have no religious affiliation or will identify themselves with a non-Christian faith.

A number of influences have been responsible for these changes. Some are:

bullet The major loss of membership by mainline and liberal Christian denominations in recent decades, compensated by a rise in attendance at conservative congregations;
bullet The influx of immigrants who follow non-Christian religions, like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam;

bullet The rise of Agnosticism, Atheism, Humanism, freethinking, and secularism;

bullet The increasing membership in new religions, like New Age, Wicca, etc.

bullet A return by many Native Americans to the Aboriginal faiths of their ancestors.

America is clearly becoming more religiously diverse. Canada, Europe and some other countries are following the same trend.

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The potential for conflict:

Reflecting this increase in religious diversity, there are now many religious celebrations widely observed during the month of December in North America. Many are related to the day when the winter solstice occurs. This varies each year between DEC-20 and 22. This date has the shortest daytime and longest nighttime of the day, in the Northern Hemisphere.

Some religions, like Islam, use a lunar calendar which is not synchronized with the secular Gregorian calendar. Their celebrations occur about 12 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar.

A list of celebrations:

bullet Bodhi Day by Buddhists. This recalls the date when Buddha attained enlightenment. (DEC-08).
bullet Christmas by Christians. The ancient Christians took over Saturnalia, an ancient Roman Pagan seven day festival of Saturn which started on DEC-17 and used it to commemorate the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ). Internal evidence in the Bible indicates that he was born in the Fall between 4 and 7 BCE.
bullet The Day of the Return of the Wandering Goddesshas also been observed by followers of Kemetic Orthodoxy, the religion of ancient Egypt, since about 4500 BCE This celebrates the return of the Goddess Hathor to her father Ra and the healing of their relationship. It is synchronized to the Winter Solstice
bullet Hanukkah (a.k.a. Chanukah, Festival of Lights, & Festival of Rededication) by Jews. It is an eight day holiday that begins on the 25th day of Kislev which can occur in very late November or during December. Rabbi Allen Maller has donated an essay for this web site titled "Why Hanukah is for Muslim Jews."
bullet Id al-Fitr by Muslims for a few years before 2006. Between 2006 and 2008, it was Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice. During 2009 and 2010, it was Ashura, the Day of Remembrance. In 2015, Sunni Muslims observe the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi' al-awwal Milad un Nabi in 570 CE. Shi'a Muslims observe it on the 17th of that month. This translates to DEC-24 or JAN-04 according to

bullet Winter Solstice is celebrated by some Native Americans and Aboriginals in the rest of the world.
bullet Many Atheists, at least in North America, have begun to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
bullet Saturnalia by Nova Romans (a.k.a. Romana). 1,2These are Neopagans who worship the ancient Gods of Rome and who celebrate the ancient Roman holy days.
bullet Yule by Wiccans and some other Pagans.

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This month also includes a number of cultural celebrations. Three are:

bullet Festivus, a celebration "for the rest of us". It is as a simple, rather humorous family alternative to Christmas with a minimum of commercialization.
bullet Kwanzaa (a.k.a. Kwanzaa, Quansa) is a week-long, inter-faith celebration -- a cultural holiday celebrating African-American heritage.
bullet Omisoka is a very popular end-of-year celebration in Japan.
bullet Shabe-Yalda, an Iranian inter-faith celebration in honor of the sun's rebirth.

More information on religious and secular celebrations.

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

  1. "Frequently Asked Questions On Hellenic Neopaganism (Greco-Roman Neopaganism)," The Stele, at:
  2. "Saturnalia Practices of Nova Romans," Nova Romans, at:
  3. David Porter, "Same old song at Christmas: Do carols discriminate?," Associated Press, 2004-DEC-18, at:
  4. "Study finds number of Protestants is falling," Houston Chronicle, 2004-JUL-21. Posted on the Free Republic bulletin board at:
  5. E.J. Dionne Jr., "Peace on Earth? Not with this season's Christmas wars," Washington Post, 2004-NOV-21, at: We were only able to quote portions of his article due to copyright restrictions. The full article is well worth reading.
  6. "Daily Devotions,", at:
  7. Found on the Religious Tolerance facebook page during 2015-DEC. Source unknown.
  8. Drawn using a free image from

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Copyright 2004 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-DEC-04
Latest update: 2015-DEC-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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