Christmas is unique among holidays in America. It has a very strong Christian tradition (well, duh!) as well as very strong secular traditions, and I love them both. I love giving gifts to loved ones - and even total strangers. I love the old favorite songs and the whole feeling of this time. People in retail will tell you that Christmas often determines whether or not they stay in business. I'm sure you've noticed that news outlets report sales from the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) as if they're reporting scores from a bowl game. Another part of the holiday is the annual struggle to "keep Christ in Christmas" and not overlook the spiritual side of the holiday. I like to remind everyone there's actually a court ruling that says how many reindeer (three) a holiday display must have to remain "sufficiently secular" to be legal to display on public property. If I'm putting on a public display and among all other other Winter Holiday symbols I have three reindeer on display, it's secular; if everything else is the same but it's only two reindeer and package of reindeer sausage, I'm obviously trying to convert you! Does it get more stupid than that? On second thought, don't answer that.
Other than the perpetually aggrieved people who protest everything, who's offended by someone wishing them happiness? For years, I used to run this video by Jackie Mason saying as "The Ultimate Jew" he wasn't remotely offended by people wishing him a Merry Christmas. Now I could choose one from Dennis Prager, except this is half an hour.
A couple of weeks ago, in an email I just spent an hour looking for, the author said that all our lives there's been a secret hidden right in front of our eyes in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special from 55 years ago. If you know the show, you know the scene where Charlie Brown in exasperation says he doesn't know what Christmas is all about and questions out loud if anybody does.
When Linus recites the passage from Luke chapter 2 about the birth of Christ, he drops his security blanket right at the point where he quotes the angels saying, "Fear not." He drops his security blanket and doesn't pick it up until he's done reciting the passage. When he finishes, he picks up his blanket to walk off stage.
For those of us who read Peanuts every day while growing up, I'd bet no image is as well-associated as Linus and his security blanket, yet he drops it on that cue. A kid carries a security blanket because they're afraid. He knows he doesn't need to be.
As we plunge through the last days before Christmas, take time to enjoy it and your loved ones. If you feel a need to get some perfunctory gift for someone you'd really rather not give to, I say don't. That's some sort of bizarre social ritual, not Christmas. Don't put yourself in debt for Christmas; even if it means the kids get a "meager" holiday. It won't hurt them and may just help them. If you're one of the 45% who recently said they'd just as soon skip the whole thing - I say skip it. It's still a federal holiday, so you have that going for you.