Christmas brings on a host of mixed emotions for me, and has done so all of my adult life. As a lapsed Catholic, I know the story of the three wise men and the gifts they brought to celebrate the birth of Christ. I understand the symbolism behind the custom of exchanging gifts, or at least, the symbolism which is supposed to be behind the custom. But, I don't buy it, at least not the way the custom is carried on in modern times. I find Christmas, for the most part, to be little more than an excuse for overindulgence, the worst of which is the exchange of totally useless items simply due to the need, or expectation, to present a gift to someone whose likes and desires may be so little known to the giver that they are unable to select an appropriate gift. As an adult I probably am more of an agnostic than anything else. I am completely lacking in religious faith of any kind. But if I were a Christian, I think that I would have to seriously consider the role that gift exchanging plays in commemorating the birth of Christ. I really think that I would have to abstain from the custom because it has become, IMO, a mockery of the very ideals which are meant to be celebrated. I think that the children of the world should feel very fortunate that none of them were born to DH and myself, because if we had kids I think that their Christmas experience would consist of spending Christmas Eve night out in the barn, sleeping on a bed of straw with the donkeys (and the mice). When they awoke on Christmas morn, they would find gifts of frankincense and myrrh- sorry, but gold is not in the budget, lol! That, to me, would be a much more appropriate way to celebrate the birth of Christ than going to the local China Mart and buying the latest over-priced, junky toy which is either going to be broken or become the object of lost interest in a week. In spite of my lack of faith, I do enjoy exchanging gifts with DH on Christmas, but I do not delude myself into thinking that we are celebrating anything other than the gift-giving occassion which this holiday has become. In fact, this year, which marks the third Christmas of our marriage, I was even more extravagant than I have been in the past. In a sense, anyway. I did buy a large number of gifts for DH, but most of them were: a. items we would have purchased eventually for the farm/homestead; and b. in a departure from previous years' buying pattern, many of the gifts I bought were pre-owned. Yep, used gifts. What a concept. Something I have never done before, but will probably do again in the future. Even though I bought a large number of gifts, I stayed well within budget. I did not use any credit cards, paid cash for everything I bought, and did not dip into our "grocery money" to do it. We sold a piece of property this year, and we have good cash flow at the moment, so I did not feel too bad about the expenses. But, if $$$ had been tight, no way would I have spent it on gifts. I read post after post on the forums where people describe the agony they experience over the $$$ that they "have" to spend on gifts. It's bad enough for those who have the $$$, but so much worse for those who rely on credit to get through the holiday season, or for those who simply cannot afford to buy gifts at all. Why do so many of us feel so compelled to buy gifts that we exceed our financial ability to do so? Would it be the end of the world if we simply told our families and friends that we would not be exchanging gifts? Would it destroy the lives of our children, leave them emotionally scarred for life? Would our loved ones feel unloved if they did not recieve some great expensive gift from us this year? And, if that is the case, doesn't that say something about how wrong this custom has become? If I were a Christian, I think, or at least, I hope, that I would be a lot more concerned about the people in the world who lack basic amenities, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education than I would about whether or not my 8yo got the latest TXL Elmo or Playstation gadget under the tree on Christmas morning. I always laugh when I read (on the forums or in the news media) about how so many families, prior to Christmas, have their kids go through their toys and belongings, sorting out those which they wish to keep from the ones they have outgrown or tired of, so that the outcast items can be donated to some charity or other, making room for more of the newest, latest, hottest, most expensive item advertised on TV? Ha! If we were really feeling so charitable, and really wanted to teach our kids about the true meaning of Christmas, why not keep the old stuff for ourselves and spend our $$$ buying food, clothing, and gifts for the poor or underpriveledged? I mean, really, what does this teach them- that the poor are only good enough to receive our old cast off items? Back to my idea about celebrating the birth of Christ- does anyone else think that my idea of opening a Christmas bed and breakfast is a good one? We can fit a lot of guests in mangers out in the barn on Christmas Eve, and we already have the donkeys. Maybe this would be the perfect gift for that person on your list who already has "everything"- the experience of the birth of Christ (the actual birth would have to be simulated, but everything else would be "authentic"). I'll have to give it some more thought, but for now, I am off to wrap a few more presents to stick under the tree. Happy Holidays to All.