It was a really drippy day on Fidalgo Island, where my parents and brother and I had gathered to toast the holidays and nibble on Mom's anatomically correct gingerbread people. The same as every year. The presents were nice, the tree was pretty--albeit, in accord with a noticeable trend, smaller--and once again no one had bothered to bake a real pumpkin pie, but the canned stuff would suffice. We opened presents, listened to some quartet playing Medieval tunes recorded at St. Martin's in the Fields, and threw wadded-up paper at the cat.
Two weeks later, my mom called and said, "Um, what would you think if next year we didn't do Christmas?"
I tested my feelings, and was surprised to feel none. "So, what do you mean? Like, just no Christmas?"
"Well," my mom said, "I was thinking next year instead of everyone buying presents for everyone, we could go to Hawaii instead."
Now I had feelings. "Hawaii!" I said. "That sounds so tacky! Really? Hawaii?" Then I thought about it. Fresh fruit. Warm weather. Fish. It didn't sound too bad.
I told my friends about the decision, and they all said, "You have the coolest family in the world." And I think they may be right. My family has never been religious (excepting my own post-high-school experiment with charismatic Baptism, which embarrasses me still), and none of us is easy to buy for. Moreover, we're tight-knit middle-class moderates, nobody is an alcoholic, and we're all over 25; a holiday seems superfluous.
So the holiday ban has been on, in my family, for several years now, and it's working great. I recommend it to everyone. We no longer have to participate in crazed shopping rituals; even better, if we feel the need to shop, we return from our trip in time for the after-Xmas sales. When we gather, it's in a moderately priced hotel somewhere in the vicinity of a beach. Nobody has to clean up. Nobody has to fake delight at a present. It's clean, it's anti-consumerist, it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with love.
The only thing I miss is the gingerbread people.