Of all the holidays we celebrate in the U.S., Christmas evokes the most extreme emotional reactions.  Where do you line up?

Many of us grew up thinking Christmas was the most sacred time of the year, a time to remember and celebrate the most wonderful, touching, and humbling event in human history, the entrance of God into our world as a little child, come to save us all from our sins.

Even for many of us who no longer celebrate the religious side of the holiday, it can be a time of joy, of appreciating others, of giving, and of reflection.

But Christmas is obviously about a lot more than even that, at least as it has come to be institutionalized in our world.  And so many of us growing up absolutely thrived on receiving gifts and having special times with family.  And many of us have loved all the accoutrements of the season: snow, Christmas trees, lights, candles, decorations, festivities, carols, the movies (A Christmas Carol!  The Christmas Story!  It’s a Wonderful Life!  White Christmas!  Take your pick), Christmas Eve services, the excitement on the morning of the day itself, the fantastic meal.

On the down side, many of us are completely fed with the commercialization of Christmas, the naked and raw materialism, the greed, the selfishness, the desire for more, more, more.  Many of us want to yank the plug on store music.  It was bad enough when Christmas started being pushed in the stores before Thanksgiving (heresy!); now it’s before Halloween (damnable heresy!).  What really is the point?  OK, we all know the point, but still.

On the very downside-other-extreme, many people find the season completely awful in every way.  The heavy obligation to buy gifts for people who don’t need and often don’t want them but expect to receive them; the enforced family time with family you don’t get along with; that awful hour or so around a table with people you’re not talking with or don’t want to be talking with; the crass materialism; the deeply seated memories of blow-ups going into the day and on the day itself; the misery of estranged parents whether trying to put on a good show or having given up on all that already.  The loneliness and sense of having no one.  The seasonal depression.

And so the same season/day can be terrific or torturous, even for different people in the same family.  And sometimes that itself is a source of tension, irritation, and stress.

So, that’s what I’ve observed.   Sometimes it’s cathartic to say what you really think at times of joy and / or stress.  If you’re inclined, tell us your personal experience of the season, in a comment here on this post.   I won’t be replying to comments: this is your moment if you want it.  What do you think and feel?