In the 1700s, Christmas was notorious for drunken bashes more reminiscent of Mardi Gras than our family-friendly holiday. An account from New York published during the "twelve days" of Christmas in early 1787 (the same year Americans would frame the new Constitution) paints a picture of a deeply conflicted holiday. As one might expect, some people focused on the religious meaning of the season, setting aside the time "for a most sacred purpose." Others, however, spent the twelve days "reveling in profusion, and paying their sincere devotions to merry Bacchus," the Greek god of wine and festivity.The overt partying that was part of Christmas celebration back in the day certainly adds context to George Washington's eggnog recipe!
On another note, since Jon has wished everyone a merry Unitarian Christmas, I would like to extend best Christmas holiday wishes from a papist perspective. If you think it is important to keep Christ in Christmas (and I do), consider how important it is to keep all of Christmas -- Christ + Mass! A merry Christmas to all -- Christus natus est!