Last year right after Thanksgiving we were heading to Tucson, driving across the Nevada desert, when I got the idea of writing a Christmas novella. The whole thing fell together easily as it was about a family I had introduced in From Here to There (that book ended before Christmas and after a big snowstorm).
Taking these characters a couple of years forward with a slice of life story seemed a natural. When you are writing a story with characters you've previously created, half the work is done. I wanted to write something that emphasized the sharing aspect to Christmas but also brought out that, on a ranch, the work doesn't take a holiday. I also wanted a story that was modern in the problems families face today. It went together easily and was out before Christmas 2012. Surprisingly it's sold once in awhile through the year as some people like to read Christmas stories year round.
Because my characters in that story were not overly religious people, not to say they weren't believers but they were not strongly into a church, I had the chance to have them celebrate the Solstice along with Christmas. It might seem pagan to use the Solstice that way but it's part of the season and a lovely way to celebrate the gradual lengthening of the days. My kids all have Solstice celebrations to bring back the light. I encompassed some of that as a way to bring two families together.
It's not as though Christmas itself is a uniquely Christian celebration since it's well known Christ was not born at that time of the year, not with shepherds in the fields with their flocks. Most people understand the Christmas tree goes back to Celtic roots. The candles could be seen as part of Hanukkah or Saturnalia, the Roman celebration of light. Santa Claus is a myth of Scandinavian origin with Saint Nicholas. Now there's also Kwanzaa, as a celebration of family, culture, and community.
I've often thought it's an odd time of the year to have such a busy season when we basically have the longest nights, the most colds and sickness, so what do we do but run to stores, buy a lot of stuff, eat too much, and then collapse as soon as it's over. However, that's the Scrooge in me. Others say all of that is the very reason we need it in the darkest season as a celebration of color, music, rebirth, and joy. Maybe so. I know I have some Christmas songs that are my definite favorites (Bethlehem Morning one example-- my CD is Sandi Patti but check out that YouTube if you have time. That song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it and brings back a ton of lovely memories as our church at that time had a pastor who could sing and boy could he sing that song).