The idea of Lord of the Rings Christmas cards still fills me with a sense of dread, but as Geoff Trowbridge pointed out in his comment to my entry of a few days ago, “[o]ne musn’t forget that Christmas is a profoundly pagan tradition dating all the way back to ancient Babylon, when the ‘Feast of the Son of Isis’ was celebrated at the Winter solstice.” And Tolkien in Appendix D of Return of the King indicates that the Hobbits do celebrate the winter solstace:
The last day of the year and the first day of the next year were called the Yuledays. The Yuledays remained outside the months, so that January 1 was the second and not the first day of the year. The Lithedays and the Yuledays were the chief holidays and time of feasting. In full Yuletide was six days long, including the last three and first three days of each year.
The Hobbit’s Yuledays celebrations would have run from Hevensday, 29 Foreyule to Monday, 2 Afteryule, or in our calendar from December 18th to December 23rd. Whether or not the Yuledays celebrations had any religious significance to the Hobbits is, of course, an open question. I will concede that it’s possible, because for myself and millions of others Christmas holds no religious significance, either.