I don't want to get into a debate about Christianity, but I do wonder what it is about the season that makes even non-religious people participate with such enthusiasm.
It could be that the Coca-cola version of the holiday - buy presents, get together, eat, drink and be merry - has taken over. But I don't think so.
Personally, I think it's because the message at Christmas is essentially one that is universal. Christmas is about Peace on Earth. Love and Goodwill to Man. Comfort and Joy. And yes many people find that in religion. But many people find it without religion as well.
In the messages of hope that abound this time of year;, as we light up our homes to ward off the dark days of winter (or metaphorically, if you prefer); and as we open our homes and hearths to friends and neighbours, there is something special about the season that brings happiness to those who embrace it.
One of my favourite Christmas songs is actually a poem written by American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1836. In it he talks about hearing the bells, and their song of hope and joy. He questions that, despairing: And in despair I bowed my head/there is no peace on earth I said/For hate is strong and mocks the song/Of peace on earth, goodwill to man.
He was thinking of the civil war when he wrote about that hate. We can just as easily apply it to any one of a hundred situations around the world today. Despair, under these circumstances, is easy.
But the bells continue, refusing to give in to that. And in the end, Longfellow could not resist: Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/God is not dead nor does he sleep/the wrong shall fail, the right prevail/In peace on earth, goodwill to man.
For a short time, at Christmas, it is easy to believe that the world is in harmony. That there can indeed be peace on earth.
It's a promise of hope that we can all relate to.