- For christians - it's a holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, revered as the son of God & savior of mankind.
- For families - it's a time to gather, share gifts, and celebrate.
- For retail - it's a time to advertise, encouraging people to spend liberally.
Like most western holidays, Christmas is an amalgam of Christian and pagan traditions collected over time. As empires conquered cultures throughout history, they combined overlapping celebrations together. It's interesting that the earliest English reference to December 25th as “Christmas Day” didn't occur until 1043 A.D.
Around the holidays, you'll see in the news controversial stories about athiests wanting christmas trees taken down from public buildings, or others wanting Kwanzaa decorations given equal prominence. I can understand the argument ‘separation of church & state’… but come on, Christmas is about as religious as Halloween these days. Santa Claus & Christmas trees are not associated with Jesus Christ. Christmas has become a global commercial holiday. When I lived in Japan, a Buddhist & Shinto religious nation, they celebrated Christmas by eating cake. To demonstrate the "global commercial" aspect, there is an amusing well-known occurrance at a japanese department store, where they put up a Christmas decoration of Santa hung on a cross. (That one might out on engrish.com)
Many would say the "true meaning" of Christmas is giving. This is appropriate, given it's timing of the season... when cold winter hits and the less fortunate are hungry and cold. It's also at the end of the year, so perhaps some consider it good timing to finish up their charitable tax-deductions for the year. Christmas is a time when hope and charity thrives as people exercise their beliefs. Children believe a bearded man from the north pole flies in a sled across the world delivering presents. Adults believe the son of God was born in the middle east 2000 years ago, performed miracles, taught kindness, then was executed. Regardless of the belief - hope, charity, and family can only be a good thing. Therefore, I believe Christmas is a good thing.