This is the title of a National Endowment for the Humanities web site that is directed at teachers to provide information and questions for their students, to explore the Winter holidays many of us observe. But the historical and cultural insights presented, can be of value to any interested person who wants to better understand their own holiday practices and to also discover and appreciate those of other traditions.
As the title indicates, the text and links deal with practices that are centered in the African-American, Jewish and Christian traditions. But as historical investigation indicates, the early Pagans provided the bases for some of our current day rituals and practices, as well.
The link to "Christmas History and Christmas Traditions - Legends of Our Christmas Characters", shows the different influences from various countries on such chracters of Christmas as : Father Christmas (England), Kris Kringle (Germany), St. nicholas (Russia), Pere Noet (France), Santa Lucia (Sweden), La Befana (Italy), Jack Frost (Scadanavia) .
In the "Naughty & Nice: A History of The Holiday Season " link there is a discussion of the history of Christmas in the slave south. Under the section "Naughty & Nice: Online Resources " there are more detailed explorations of each of the three major December Holidays.
While the celebration of these holidays usually highlights goodwill and sharing, there are rough spots where ideology, religion and politics come together. Where else but in court cases ! The "Christmas Wars": Holiday Displays and the Federal Courts", summarizes some of the contention in the U.S. over holiday religious displays.
It is recommended that this last text, be read in the New Year after the season "Of peace on earth, good will to men!", has been enjoyed :-)