I know, it's such a surprise that I get bugged by something. ;)
I've been seeing a lot of, "Christmas isn't About Commercialism" and similar statements out there. While I agree with that statement: Christmas is, traditionally, a religious holiday, it seems to me to be an oversimplified and somewhat brutish way of saying, "I don't want to buy crap for my friends and family. I will make this seem noble."
The Meaning of Christmas:
In the Christian religion, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. It is commonly recognized that the day is inconsistent with what religious historians believe to be the actual birthday of Christ, however, most agree that the date is irrelevant, it's the celebration that matters. Since Christ is the central figure in Christianity, (I apologize for the over use of this phrase) Christ is reason for the season. A child, born low, who would save us all. Kind of sounds like a holiday made up by Joss Whedon, no?
For Anyone Who Wants to Argue With Me:
Yes, I know that many of the traditions such as the tree, holly and the yule log were adopted by Christianity from pagan religions. It does not detract from the fact that what we call Christmas is a christian holiday. If what you are celebrating is not a christian holiday, then call it the solstice or whatever you want, it's not Christmas.
Also, If you're not christian and still celebrate the holiday, that is fine. But I will not hear any argument about the standard meaning of it.
Now That the Meaning is Established, How Does One Celebrate?:
There are many traditions for celebration of the holiday, like the above mentioned tree, yule log, big dinners, holly, mistletoe, etc. There's also all the gift giving traditions. There's Santa Claus, the three Wise Men, and one of my favorites, La Befana. There's many more as well.
Let's start with the Magi. They brought the Christ child gifts for his birth. Many Christians feel that giving gifts to loved ones reflects the gifts brought to Christ; a small reenactment of the original Christmas, if you will. In many Latin countries the Magi still bring gifts to children. In Puerto Rico, the children cut grass for the the Magi's camels. The Magi are the devout givers.
Then there's Santa, Saint Nicolas originally. He's the patron saint of children, among other things, and was known for leaving secret gifts, like coins to good girls and boys. So basically he's the original gift card giver; lazy SOB.
Then my fav! La Befana, who distributes gifts to good girls and boys out of guilt or craziness, depending on what version you hear. Basically the Magi invited her to go with them but she said she was too busy, then changes her mind and wants to go with them but can't find them so she gives gifts to all the kids. She's the guilt giver. (I can really identify with her, I always have a back up gift just in case I forgot someone.)
What's the common theme? GIVING GIFTS! No that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune or go into debt or even turn gift giving into some sort of high stakes competition. But gift giving is a central part of the holiday, it celebrates the first Christmas, it celebrates the children you love, it celebrates everyone who is special to you. Especially kids.., you should give and give to kids.
Did you notice that all the the mythological gift givers weren't expecting much in return? Neither should you. If you're giving gifts with an expectation of reciprocation you need to reevaluate your life; yes, your whole life.
Did you notice that the only expectation of the mythological gift givers was "Good"?
Gifts should represent your esteem for the person to whom you're giving it. Does that mean you need to go spend a bunch of money? No, you could just make something, or give the gift of your time (and that's free, your time isn't worth crap and you know it) or talents.
Gift giving isn't commercialism. Gift giving is love, kindness, charity. What's so commercial about that?
Stop being a cheapskate and start giving gifts you smelly hipster.