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I understand that many (most?) Muslims prefer not to really celebrate Christmas, due to conflicting religious views. However, in truth Christmas is a composite event, of secular (arguably: predominantly), pagan, and Christian origin.

Now, it happens that in Russia and many Eastern churches (Christian), the dates are different - and notably: split. The secular part is effectively new year (including gift-giving, celebration of friends and family etc), and the religious festival is on (IIRC) the 7th January.

So: hypothetically, if this were more generally the case: would more Muslims be happy to celebrate "wintertime" (insert whatever preferred name) - meaning: just the secular end-of-year celebration, without any confusion of religious overtones? Would there be any haram in such?

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Muslims are not to copy non-muslims as is clear in many authentic Ahadith like this one so we are not to celebrate the holidays of the non-muslism is not allowed whatever the intention of it is, mending family ties does not have to be done at the end of each year. This is not meant to be an answer just a comment. –  Al Ummat Dec 19 '12 at 18:42
    
@AlUmmat interesting; I've looked at that Ahadith, but it doesn't seem "clear cut" (obvious) to me on how that should be interpreted and applied here. –  Marc Gravell Dec 19 '12 at 19:46
    
it's in there :) see this for more information. –  Al Ummat Dec 19 '12 at 20:03
    
@AlUmmat thanks: in that second link there is a lot that could make a good answer. –  Marc Gravell Dec 19 '12 at 20:36
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@Robin can you be more specific? That is vague and ambiguous. –  Marc Gravell Dec 22 '12 at 14:27
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Talking from a Shia perspective, if it is a tradition of our society then there is no problem to celebrate it as long as no Haraam action is performed during the celebration. We have a similar celebration called Nowruz which is not Islamic and celebrates the beginning of spring. [Actually there are some Ahadeeth which demonstrates the religious importance of Nowruz but there is a debate between the scholars if such Ahadeeth are weak or not.] It is considered not only Halal but also encouraged as the family members gather together, children are happy for the vacation and travelings, gifts strength the family ties, and so on. It is not against any rules of Allah but also goes well with them so why should it be Haraam. There are also several other non-Islamic celebrations in Iran, like the beginning of Winter which is the longest night of the year and is called the Yalda Night. According to Wikipedia:

Following the fall of the Sassanid Empire and the subsequent rise of Islam in Persia/Iran, the religious significance of the event was lost, and like other Zoroastrian festivals, Yalda became a social occasion when family and close friends would get together.

that is Islam has revised the old traditions, keeping their good parts and omitting the Kufr rituals and shirk points in them.

We are recommended to follow the traditions of the society that we live in, and even their common style of life, but only in those respects that they conflict with Islam then we should avoid them. Even you can notice that no two culture in Islamic cultures are exactly the same, each have their own traditions and life style but hopefully they all stick to the rules of Allah.

About the Christmas, if it is a mere secular tradition as far as I know it wouldn't be Haraam to participate it as long as it is good on its own, you can change your intention to do all such good deeds for the sake of Allah. However, if it is to celebrate the birthday of Jesus the Christ --peace be upon him--, then it should be better to participate the celebration, while not committing any sin during the celebration. We similarly celebrate all the birthdays of Imams and prophets (that we know their birthday, I only remember Ibraheem --peace be upon him-- whose birthday is recorded as 1st of dhi-Hadjeh) as the day is a day that Allah has gifted us with such a blessing.

Only one point remains to say here. As the Lunar Hijri years are shorter in length than Iranians and Gregorian years for about 11 days, the Lunar years move with respect to those Iranian and Gregorian calenders and it is possible that a religious mourning day or week or etc. (like Ashura or Muharram) coincides with a same day that is traditionally going to be celebrated, like Christmas or Nowruz. Only when such occasions occur we prefer the religious event on the traditional event. So for example we never celebrate Nowruz when it falls in the first 10 days of Muharram.

And God knows best.


EDIT. About why celebrating personal (like birthdays of the family members and friends), cultural (like the beginning of spring or a new year) and national (like 22nd of Bahman in Iran, the day Islamic revolution won against the American Backed Regime of Shah) celebrations is not Bid'ah (innovation), one should note that innovation is adding a part to Islam when that part doesn't indeed belong to Islam, or equivalently remove a part from Islam when it is indeed a part of Islam. However, none of such celebrations are claimed to be Islamic, that is, parts of Islam, as if they were then all Muslims around the world in all the times were requested to do so and of course it is not the case, not anyone except my family will celebrate my birthday not anyone from one culture is required to celebrate a cultural celebration of another culture. However, difference of cultures may be viewed as difference of languages and color of the bodies which are mentioned in Quran as:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ

And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know. [30:22]

PS. Several years ago I personally decided to get rid of all the cultural and National dependencies and stick merely to religion. I saw how much difficulties my decision brought to my family for them to adapt. The bad point was that it was only my own desire to be so and couldn't find any Islamic evidence to back my decision with. Then after sometimes of bothering my family with such an extreme decision, repeatedly explaining to the others why I cannot behave like them such that it almost drew everyone's attention toward me and my beliefs and decisions, I found evidences in (Shia) Islam that what is correct (and difficult as well) is to live like everyone but at the same time to be submitted to Allah,

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very interesting, thanks. In particular, the contrast to the other answer. With such opposite views, I may have great difficulty ticking either as "correct", but: much appreciated –  Marc Gravell Dec 20 '12 at 7:47
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It is forbidden for Muslims to imitate non-Muslims. The Prophet (May Allah's blessings and peace be upon Him) said:

You will follow the wrong ways, of your predecessors so completely and literally that if they should go into the hole of a mastigure, you too will go there." We said, "O Allah's Messenger (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) ! Do you mean the Jews and the Christians?" He replied, "Whom else?" (Meaning, of course, the Jews and the Christians.) Source

He (May Allah's blessings and peace be upon Him) also said:

He who copies any people is one of them Source

The above hadith is in the book of clothing in Sunan Abi dawood.

It is forbidden to copy non-Muslims in their worships, their religion, and their holidays. Mending family ties does not have to be done at the end of each year rather there is 365 days to do that in. Source: Iqtidaou Asserat Al-Mustaqem by Imam Ibn Taymiyah

Sources: Imitation of non-Muslims

To add on, not only is such imitation of non-Muslim, but also is a non-Muslim celebration. As is clear in the Quran and Sunnah, each people have their own ways and rituals, and Muslims are not to imitate them even in the most specific of their ways, in their celebrations. The Shariah has come ad given us our own way and our own celebrations, and those are Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr. When the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) came to Madinah, the people used to celebrate two days out of the year, the Prophet came and said:

كَانَ لَكُمْ يَوْمَانِ تَلْعَبُونَ فِيهِمَا وَقَدْ أَبْدَلَكُمُ اللَّهُ بِهِمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمَا يَوْمَ الْفِطْرِ وَيَوْمَ الأَضْحَى

'You had two days when you would play, but Allah (SWT) has given Muslims something instead that is better than them: the day of Al-Fitr and the day of Al-Adha

سنن النسائي (Annasa'i)

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So then, a Muslim should not celebrate New Years or Labor Day? –  user206 Dec 20 '12 at 2:53
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@DanAndrews did the Prophet celebrate it? –  Al Ummat Dec 20 '12 at 2:55
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@AlUmmat I have to agree with rowman - if the difference between the two answers is basically Sunni vs Shia, the answer should make it clear that it is a Sunni view. –  Marc Gravell Dec 21 '12 at 7:20
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@MarcGravell The answer is not only apply able to the Sunni sect, but also other sects like the Salafiyah, and there might be other sects it is apply able to that I don't know of. So that is one. Two, I refuse to categorize answer under any sect, if it is clear to someone that this is sunni than that is what they take in. A person reading this answer would also probably figure out that this is apply able to the sunni sect by the comments here. –  Al Ummat Dec 21 '12 at 13:08
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I agree with that Christmas is not secular, even so many non-Christians do celebrate it. However, things that doesn't add to the religion, why should it be considered haram? And ambiguous thing is what defines what is followed is haram? Working from 9 to 5 is mostly western, and many Muslim countries do follow it, is this an innovation in religion? –  Ghasan Feb 21 at 3:53
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I don't have a complete "yes or no"-answer but several points to consider (the following is more based on Sunni views as I don't have much knowledge about Shia):

Muslims have the Hijri calendar which differs from the christian calendar - so new year is not even the same (muslim versus non-muslim).

Even the Hijri "new year" is not considered a reason for celebration (from an islamic POV).

There are only 2 official/religious celebrations in Islam every year (one after Ramadan called "eid al-fitr" and one after Hajj called "eid al-adha").

Even celebrating birthdays etc. is not part of Islam while Islam makes celebrating marriage somewhat obligatory.

As for the family/friends aspect you mention: Islam urges us to keep good relations (including invitations etc.) to our family, friends and neighbors (independent of whether they are muslim or not!).

As for the traditions in several cultures even if the celebration itself is not viewed with a religious overtone and considered "non-haram" there are very often parts that make attending these celebrations haram - one example is drinking alcohol: being part of a group drinking alcohol (even when muslim doesn't drink alcohol) is considered at least something to avoid (some views say this is haram).

CONCLUSION:

IMHO it is very hard for a muslim to take part in such events while following all islamic rules. IF the specific event itself does not contain any obstacles (like consuming alcohol) from a muslim POV THEN it is basically an individual decision whether to take part.

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Except for the number of Eids (we have 4 major Eids --so indeed many as would be explained-- in Shia theology, Eid Al_Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, Eid Al-Qadeer, and Eid Al-Jume'ah, that is every weak we have an Eid with a specific praying called Salat Al-Jume'a: صلوٰة الجمعه; however not limited to these we also celebrate the birthdays of the 14 infallibles and according to a Hadeeth from Imam Ali --peace be upon him-- any day in which we do not commit any sin that would be an Eid) the rest of your answer is approvable in Shi'ite, at least AFAIK. –  owari Dec 31 '12 at 15:08
    
@owari thank you for the comment... we too have Salat Al-Jume'a: صلوٰة الجمعه but I never read anywhere that this is an Eid. –  Yahia Dec 31 '12 at 16:03
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Innovation in religion is considered bidah. However, even so, there are sometimes when it might be a good thing. Prophet, PBUH, said:

Whoever initiates a good practice in Islam then he will attain the reward for it and the reward of whoever acts upon it thereafter, without any shortcomings. And whoever initiates an evil practice, then he will carry the burden as well as the burden of whoever acts upon it thereafter, without any shortcomings. (Source)

Now, celebrating others religious events means celebrating what opposes Islamic teachings. Christmas being celebrated by non-Christians is not an issue here, it is still Christian-based celebration (if Eids are celebrated by non-Muslims, this doesn't make it secular in any way.)

That is said, there should not be a problem celebrating other non-religious affiliated events. However, such events may contain improper activities from Islam POV. Besides, being no-religious affiliated is difficult to define, as Islam defines religion as one's way in living life. For instance, Atheism is a religion. In Islam, believing in a deity is not the main criterion as to define a religion. Quran says:

Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded? (Source)

In this sense, everyone is following a religion.

My guess to why many oppose those celebrations is that it may have a later effect to how some people view Islam. And Allah knows best.

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"it is still Christian-based celebration" - that is a lot more complicated than this one sentence permits. Not least, general winter celebrations pre-date Christianity, with both secular and pagan aspects. It is very misleading to say that a non-Christian celebrating at that time of year, in a way that has nothing to do with Christianity, is celebrating a Christian-based event. –  Marc Gravell Feb 21 at 8:51
    
Likewise, rather than "if Eids are celebrated by non-Muslims" - you consider "a non-Muslim celebrated at the same part of Eid, in a way that had nothing to do with Islam", it is hard to say that "this doesn't make it secular in any way" –  Marc Gravell Feb 21 at 8:52
    
"For instance, Atheism is a religion" - no, stop right there. That is simply not a valid or correct statement. You can't just take any philosophical viewpoint and declare it "a religion". –  Marc Gravell Feb 21 at 8:53
    
I am not sure of the origin, but it is now Christ Mass. It is "the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ’s birth, held on 25 December in the Western Churchs" as of Oxford Dictionary now. Muslims celebrates Eid by first going to pray morning prayers around the time the sunrises, and then by visiting their relatives and so on... how will a non-Muslim celebrate Eid? Who has the right to define what religion is? Look at Wikipedia, and see the enormous definitions there, one of which is "one's way of valuing most comprehensively and intensively". In Islam, Desire is a God. –  Ghasan Feb 21 at 9:37
    
and I would say that definition is flawed; a non-Christian is not celebrating "Christ's birth"; they are simply celebrating on the 25th December. A non-Muslim "celebrating Eid" would likewise be celebrating at the time (based on the moons etc) at which Eid occurs. Re your "one's way of valuing" - again, atheism is a single statement of non-belief on a single topic. It has no dogma, no doctrine, and tells you nothing about what that person values, feels, or thinks, other than that they do not believe in any god. –  Marc Gravell Feb 21 at 9:47
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