In every culture that observes it, the winter solstice--whether the celebration goes under the name of Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yalda, or some other--is a time of thanksgiving. You have made it through the time of shortening days and dwindling light. From this point on, the light increases; you have arrived at the dawn of a new year.
So people, and probably even animals in their own way, give thanks at this time to the universe for the gifts of life and nourishment. This, in essence, is what the winter solstice is about, the common thread of meaning that runs through all these disparate religions and cultural observances.
There really is no need for more than this, because Nature and her transformations are quite spectacular and exciting enough on their own, without the need for human-centered myths and fables. Living beings, touching the earth and one another in gratitude and wonder, at a recurring moment of one such transformation.
You can and will, of course, add your own unique perspective and practice to this season, and that will make it your holiday, rather than the property of the Church or some other institution. Just begin with Nature and let nothing in between you and her; the rest will arise effortlessly from that connection between your heart and its source.
The artwork in the little card attached is from my blogging partner, Terry McKenna, who will be back in this space on Tuesday morning. Happy holidays to all.