In brief, the standard academic critique of mChristmas is that it trivializes our emotions with false and shallow sentimentality, and helps to foster a culture of greed, commercialism, excess, and rampant spending on things we neither need or want. No observer of the contemporary Christmas season can deny that there really is much false sentimentality and corrupt consumerism at Christmas time. This is true and those things are rightly condemned.
The problem is that academics are very narrow-minded. They reduce everything to a singular phenomenon, a unified purpose, and they are often incapable of seeing outside the colored goggles of their favorite ideology. In general, anything enjoyed by a majority of people is frowned upon and dismissed by the professors who sit atop their ivory towers feeling smug and superior, above the common and duped rabble.
They might try looking more deeply.
I know few - if any - people who are really concerned with presents and hallmark card sentimentality. Most people find Christmas a time to remind them that what matters most in life is Peace on Earth and Good Will toward all. Yes these phrases have been abused and over used. That does not drain them of their meaning.
Christmas reminds us to cherish our loved ones, to value our relationships, to reach out to those in need. Undoubtedly we should do this all year long. We should always value our relationships, cherish our loved ones, help the poor and needy. No doubt the pretentious critics of Christmas will bellow at me that "we don't need a special day for this stuff! We should always bear peace and good will." Indeed we should. But reminders help.
A special season devoted to what is best in human nature is a reminder to always be our best. We too easily get lost in the hustle of everyday life. Setting aside a day, indeed, an entire "season" to remember what matters most in life, can be a powerful motivator for the rest of the year.
By all means let us damn consumerism. Let us fight false sentimentality tooth and nail and refuse to participate in it. But this is only a superficial surface. What Christmas has always been about is none of these vile things.
This Christmas let us turn to the message of Peace, Joy, Love, and Good Will that Christmas is really all about. Let us join Ebenezer Scrooge and learn to honor Christmas in our hearts and keep it all the year.