But, listening to people talk, I hear something else, something uncertain, like we're facing a different kind of challenge than in holidays past.
A crisis is less likely to revise our true nature than simply reveal it. If we learn how brave we are when we face danger, we also learn how generous we are.
It's no accident that Mississippi often ranks as the most generous state, as well as the poorest. Wealth and safety have a way of making us hard and heedless.
But, in a meltdown, when many people taste fear and doubt about the future, we also feel other people's pain more sharply. The lights come on. The scales tip. We look around and recognize both our loss and our luck.
This may feel darker than any holiday in memory, and yet most of us know someone who has it worse. And the desire to help is powerful.
Employees at Boeing have tripled their cash donations to Northwest Harvest, which runs the state's largest food bank.
Seven in 10 adults plan to spend less on presents, but about half say they are more likely to give a donation, instead of gold or gadgets.
In World Vision's catalogue, $20 protects a family from Malaria; $75 buys a goat for a family in Haiti. December sometimes feels like one long final exam, a character test for many people of many faiths, whose holy days fall before year's end.
Have these last months left us humbled or hardened, bitter at all we think we have lost, or grateful for what we once took for granted?
Anxiety has a way of sharpening the senses, not just sights and sounds, the twinkle and jingle, but mercy and judgment about what to value and what to share.
I'm Nancy Gibbs.