Despite these valid criticisms, I remain a fan of Christmas. Each of us has a choice as to how we celebrate this holiday. We can - with effort - avoid the commercialism, and we can choose to celebrate the love of close friends and family without being either sappy or overly - read: falsely - sentimental. There is, however, another criticism that I think should be answered.
Every year we hear devout Christians explain that too many pagan and/or secular elements have crept into the holiday and that the birth of Jesus is forgotten.
The problem is that Christmas was originally modeled on a pagan celebration. Christmas has not ever been an exclusively Christian holiday, but mostly a pagan celebration of life and love which was at one point joined with the Christian religion.
And in the west today Christmas is a cultural event, not merely a religious festival. Christmas has both sacred - both Christian and pagan - and secular elements. We may choose not to celebrate any of these, or some of these, or all of these. But whichever we choose, our choice might be better informed if we know the truth about the history and origins of the holiday.
The following documentary by the history channel is a great summary and analysis of the Christmas holiday:
Also, there was an excellent Op-ed piece on this blending of traditions that make up Christmas just a couple days ago: