We found a cure. We celebrate Hogswatch sometime after Christmas but before New Year's Eve. It's total silliness based on a book by Terry Pratchett, the Hogfather (now a motion picture!). The book is hysterically funny, especially if you read it out loud. The movie is pretty close to the story, too, and also very funny.
It's the story of the Hogfather being kidnapped right before Hogswatch. Somebody has to take his place, so Death steps in to fill his boots.
We celebrate by making all the kids go into another room and pretend to be asleep for 15 minutes so the Hogfather can come. Loud, horrible snoring noises are encouraged. Meanwhile, the adults leave large black paper bootprints around the fireplace, if you have one, and assorted imported treats or Christmas leftovers on the counter. The children get to run out and eat whatever they like while we get the gift exchange ready.
The first year we did this with just our own kids. I went to the grocery store and found some bizarre items, like a lemon juicer and an ice cream scoop and envelopes and biscuit mix and pineapples and other random cheap things, and wrapped them up from the Hogfather. The kids thought it was funny. No expectations of anything good or expensive. It was pure silliness.
Hogswatch evolved into a no-holds-barred white elephant gift exchange. Anything ugly or weird or unwanted that you could wrap ended up in the pile of presents. The nicer the wrapping job and the larger the box, the more the gift was fought over. Until it was opened. Only a few were still fought over after opening because they were useless or ugly and definitely unwanted for a reason. The hideous Santa plate made the rounds for several years. So did the awful angel fountain. It sounds much prettier than it was. The encyclopedia set was passed around for almost an hour before someone finally opened the box. Good times.
We haven't done it for a couple of years and I miss it. Maybe this year we'll find a space big enough for all the families that like to celebrate it with us. Last I counted we had at least seven large families involved.
It's something to look forward after Christmas that has no expectations tied to it except to have fun. It's just silly.
Pass me the pink sugar pigs and I'll read you The Hogfather...