I am enjoying all of these replies!
More and more, I am growing to see Christmas as an entire season -- the winter season -- which is all about going deep in order to truly feel the life that we all are. So we celebrate the birth of Jesus, because He brought new life to a people who felt trapped by the belief that every time somebody did something wrong, it could only be made right by blood and suffering.
I no longer believe that punishment is a necessary, or even a desirable, component of restoration and renewal of right relationships -- but I used to feel a need to know that my sin was "paid for," so I do see the value of Christianity as a stepping-stone that enabled/enables certain groups of people to move into really being able to feel their connection to the life and goodness that they/we all really are at the core.
When I've been out walking our dog lately, I've been struck by the sense that this is the season where life goes underground and is not so obvious -- yet it is still very much there. The sensation of remaining warm throughout the walk reminds me that I am life...I am warmth. This is a season where we share our warmth with one another. We find ways to draw close to those who are slipping into coldness due to depression, loneliness, discouragement, or any reason.
I do love Christmas carols! What's most enjoyable to me is listening to one of our local stations that plays a wide range of every kind of Christmas music.
For us, the season starts on Thanksgiving when we put up our tree. This year, we started a new family tradition of going to our city's Plaza on the evening of Thanksgiving to see the turning on of the Christmas lights and the fireworks display. This year, I'd also like to start a new tradition of making a Yule log cake to celebrate the longest night of the year and the turning of the wheel of the year back toward springtime, and a new tradition of making the Italian cake, Tiramisu, to celebrate New Years'.