Interesting piece. Many many years ago I was one of those Christians who knew just enough to be dangerous, and had a pole up my @$$ about how people were trivializing my religious holiday, all the while never refusing a gift from anyone.
Then I gained a little knowledge...and wisdom. When I learned that we did this to ourselves by putting the Feast of the Nativity on the same date as an already overdone Yule/Solstice/Saturnalia celebration, I realized that it was sort of like deciding to get married on the 4th of July. Both things get mixed together, and called by one name.
And so I've made my peace with the fact that there are two parallel Christmas celebrations. One is religious, the other is secular and cultural. And I celebrate both just as I would celebrate Independence Day and my wedding anniversary had I been foolish enough to schedule them for the same time. They are cousins with the same last name...maybe even fraternal twins...and one does not easily disentangle one from the other without losing something.
And the gift-giving...while we do try to keep it modest in our family, I also look at the "obligatory gift-giving" as a time to teach my children about thinking about other family members and keeping an eye out for things that they might like.
We also, though, do make a point of buying things for the Salvation Army tree...or this year, donating to the family of a woman who was killed in a car accident a few weeks ago. It doesn't have to be either/or. It can be both/and.
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