Based on the John Grisham novel "Skipping Christmas," two empty nesters decide to forgo the holiday craziness and spend the thousands of dollars they'll save on a Caribbean cruise for themselves. Chided and chastised by their small-town friends and neighbors, they stick to their guns right up to Christmas Eve. But a call from their daughter -- announcing she's returning from her Peace Corps posting with her intended in tow -- changes everything.
The couple, along with their friends and neighbors, turn themselves inside out to put on a celebration with all the trimmings.
What it reveals: A lot of holiday spending is on automatic pilot. And as the season progresses, it takes on a momentum of its own -- like a snowball rolling downhill.
"If you have that conversation and realize that you have higher priorities than a pile of presents under the tree or a big ham or turkey," that doesn't make you a bad person, Mark says. Instead, look for ways to share gifts of time, love and expertise.
Revelation for cynics: If you're bucking "tradition" (yours or anyone else's), keep it on the down-low. And skip the tanning booth.