I'm one who is completely turned off by the prevalent materialism of the holiday season. I don't generally buy gifts for people at Christmas outside of my boys and my best friend. Everyone else on my list gets trays of candies and baked goods. No one's complained as of yet. 'Tis the season, let the Bakefest commence!
I have largely stopped buying stuff for people at Christmas. I still buy a few token gifts for my mom, but only the things that I know that she needs. For example, this year, I bought her some muffin mixes and soup mixes from King Arthur Flour and an Ancestry DNA kit just for fun. But my big gift to her each year is an honorific donation to our family endowment (at my alma mater). I made some similar honorific gifts to people I feel close to as well.
I legitimately cannot keep up with the cost of presents that other people want; it's just too cost-prohibitive. About five years ago, a friend told me what one of her teen kids wanted for Christmas, and it was a costly electronic device, the cost of which exceeded what I planned to spend on presents, sum total.
When it is within my financial means, I celebrate the season by giving to those in need. The last few years, I have been the one in need. I used to donate to toys for tots, find charities that didn't require religion to receive, donate time where I can, and etc. To me, the season is the perfect time to make others smile. When I can, I try to share with others. I have been helped so often. I it forward as often as I can.
You're more generous than I am. My children do get slightly spoiled at Christmas, and I buy gifts for my boyfriend and my children's father (to be his gifts from the children) and that's it. I don't bake or buy anything for anyone else. Unless I participate in the Secret Santa at work, for which I'll buy one item.
You're certainly not alone in feeling this way. As one who was raised by an intelligent and pragmatic mother, I learned early in life that having rewarding friendships was preferable to having lots of stuff, and that no one should ever need to feel obligated to give gifts due to cultural dictates. I enjoyed the holidays because it meant being able to spend more time with friends. It's not that we didn't give and receive gifts, but mostly they were thoughtful ones like books and music. But that was way back in the old hippie days, and things have changed considerably.
Fortunately for me, I get to work on Christmas Eve and Day. I work part-time at a Veterans Home, so I know that my time is being spent helping others instead of the rampant consumerism that Christmas has become. While I do miss out on spending time with family and friends, I can make up for that at other times of the year without the "holiday stress".
What I didn't like about the holidays, not just Christmas, but any holiday, was going to all the work it takes to set everything up in the manner in which we were suppose to "celebrate", yet receiving no thanks or appreciation for the work that I did. It's like everyone around me just got in their box and became robotic. No joy, no enthusiasm, just acting, and certainly no appreciation for anything. Afterward, it was all the cleaning up and restoring things to normal.
So, I will give to you what I wished others would have given to me...
Thank you for the baked goods! Thank you for taking the time and energy it takes to make something from scratch to give to others! I hope you receive the appreciation you deserve, and if not, I appreciate what you do.