This time of year can be very difficult for many people. I think of the "most wonderful time of the year" song/carol - how it can grate on my nerves some times. I think it's false advertising - encouraging unreasonable expectations.
As a culture, I think our expectations of ourselves and others are on steroids much of the time already.
Giving isn't a bad thing, acknowledging the loved ones in our lives is a good thing. It is worthwhile. But pretending that an expensive gift is love, I'm not sure I agree with that.
And it's not that spending the holiday with four year olds isn't awesome. They love the season. Thanksgiving night, they asked me "Is tomorrow Christmas?" (We've been telling them that Christmas is after Thanksgiving, so naturally, now that Thanksgiving was over, the next day had to be Christmas, right??)
They've also been trying to talk me into allowing them to wrap their own presents.
They are a joy to be around during the holidays.
But even before I had kids, there were some nice things about the holidays.
I've always liked how peaceful the morning of December 25th is. The entire day, actually. Most all stores are closed. With as busy as everything is with modern life, even before the internet caught on - I think it's just nice to have a day to breathe.
It's a nice day not to focus on what a person does not have, but what we do have. It is a cliche. Even if there are loved ones who are no longer with us, to think about happy memories. To relax and meditate. To read, bake or create art - whatever a person does to relax.
Another possibility is to help those who are less fortunate. To reach out to people who are lonely. One of the best Thanksgivings I've had was a potluck put on by friends and other people who couldn't go home for the holidays. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter. Buying toys or clothes for those who don't have any. There are certainly plenty of people who are going without this year.
I can certainly understand why this time of year is difficult for people. Everyone brings up scrooge - but admitting the holidays are stressful and filled with expectations is not being unreasonable. Admitting that sometimes when a family gets together (or in laws get together) things can be hectic. There's a reason why people typically imbibe quite a bit of alcohol around the holidays.
Everyone celebrates (or doesn't celebrate) in their own way. Respecting that, appreciating what we do have is pretty powerful and awe-inspiring, in my opinion.
And sometimes choosing exactly which traditions we want to participate in, and what we don't is something I can always be grateful for.