I guess, as I think about it more, the "experience" of Christmas is what really matters to me... and it seems like my family is just more focused on the "stuff" part. So, they got me stuff and feel like they did their bit, and I'm disappointed because I wanted the experience... the surprise, the wrappings, and really, a more personal gift would have felt nice. Really, a nicely wrapped bar of chocolate, or framed photo, or even a personal letter... those would have felt better to me. It's not really about the stuff for me - I can buy my own Arabic grammar books and loaf pans - so just getting the stuff is disappointing.
When Rain and I shop for them, we get more personal gifts... sometimes we make gifts, or do other things to make them personal. For example, I got my dad a digital photo frame for Christmas, but I opened it and preloaded it with some pictures of the family, because I know he's not very tech savvy... and then I wrote him a note and explained to him how to get it to work (it was all set, so he just had to turn it on and click Favorites).
My dad has always said that I get good gifts, and this year, when he got the box, he wrote about how nice all the presents looked under their tree, and how he wished my mom was here to see... and then he said "Maybe she is." So I do think he enjoys the experience of Christmas, too... but my mom was the one who created it, not him...
Honestly, the environmental impact just doesn't seem that big to me... it's the equivalent of one Sunday paper, maybe, and we recycle the wrap just like we recycle the paper. The cost is negligible, since we buy after the holidays - again, I probably wrapped all of our gifts for the cost of a Sunday paper. And I get much more joy out of wrapped gifts and the experience of unwrapping them than I do out of the paper... and to me, that's what these decisions are about.
Anyway, clearly people feel differently about the meaning of Christmas gifts, and that's okay. I will really enjoy opening the gift Rain got for me, and watching her open the ones I got for her... and I am so grateful that we're on the same page about the holidays.
And I understand now that my family doesn't mean to seem uncaring - that they just have different ideas about how to show that.