Today Elli, my dad and I went sledding and then had a hotdog roast in the fireplace. That, right there, is the essence of Christmas for me. Presents can be nice as long as they are something that somebody really needs but the entire point of the season for me is that it is a time when lots of relatives I rarely get to see all end up together for a big gathering. I feel obliged at this point to link to an article about excessive consumerism... though that is probably the second most annoying thing about Christmas next to all that extra shopping we feel obligated to do. Just like all of your other Facebook friends I will swamp you with well intentioned opinion pieces telling you that you are doing Christmas all wrong.
I also recommend snow angels and walking in the woods as good therapy for the stress of the holidays. It helps not only with retail stress but also with the need to unplug from bloggers who can't help but link to obligatory 'you're doing it all wrong' articles.
Strangely I panic a little inside during the holidays when people want to talk about politics. I wander away from the internet for a week and I am suddenly far behind on the fiscal cliff, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's removal from office, and any number of other current events issues. I get that sense that I desperately need to run to a computer and spend a few hours getting up to date on everything so I can talk competently about the world. I think the feeling that I need to spend hours a day keeping up on current events (about which I can do absolutely nothing) is a real problem... I need less hours spent in pointless worrying about the world, not more.