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We generally have a party on the Winter Solstice (to celebrate the days getting longer) where we see all our friends. Some bring wine, dishes to share, but most important is that they show up. I go to a couple of Christmas concerts because I like the music. I put up a few decorations because it helps me through the darkest days of the year to have the house look festive.
I agree with you about the gift giving. It's just marketing. I buy gifts for people during the year and sometimes wait till Christmas to give them, but if it makes sense or they really need a gift to cheer them up, I give the gift then. I try to give gifts to those in need during the year. I always put money in the Food Bank collection jar when I go to the farmers market. I hope those small things add up.