Haynes complains that the “in-your-face tactics” of people like Damon Vix, who organized the nonreligious displays in Santa Monica, Calif. (including a Winter Solstice banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation) have become “counterproductive and needlessly divisive.”

Counterproductive of what? Isn’t diversity — with freedom and justice for all — what America is all about? And if there is divisiveness, who is to blame? Does December belong only to Christians?

Haynes is certainly aware that this season of the year has been celebrated for millennia before the Christian Church usurped it for their own agenda. No respectable scholar thinks Jesus was born in December, if he was born at all. Many other pagan sun gods and resurrected “saviors” had been purportedly born on Dec. 25 long before a sect of messianic Jews came up with their own version of the story. The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia during December, leading up to the New Year, the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on Dec. 25, which was the date in the Julian calendar of the winter solstice, the actual new year.

The real “reason for the season” is the natural astronomical holiday. We all like to honor the shortest day of the year with lights, food, gifts, fun, music, and family gatherings, as it signals the return of the sun for another year. While everything in the upper northern hemisphere is dark and colorless, the evergreen signifies hope for a returning spring. None of this is supernatural. It has nothing to do with the birth of a god.