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Friday, Dec. 21, 2007 | No gifts this year. I guess Fox News would take that as a sign that someone is trying to kill Christmas. They would be right — sort of.

At the end of summer, our scattered family was figuring out who would be where for the holidays. Our son, who lives in New York, suggested that we eliminate gifts for the adults and pool the money that we would spend and give it to a non-profit. We’d all still put little things into each other’s Christmas stockings. The youngest children, of course, would get their loot, in stockings and under the tree.

Everyone quickly agreed. I had already found my husband’s gift, and he, too, had bought my gift on a trip to the Northwest. But no more.

Deciding on a non-profit took a number of phone calls and emails. We notified adult members of the family outside our immediate circle not to expect presents, and they joined our effort.

As the season approached, I felt somewhat disjointed, “missing in action” from the shopping frenzy of this time of year, although I’ve always been something of a Christmas maverick. I observe the “buy nothing” day after Thanksgiving. Also, I long ago turned to local retailers, museum shops, and the internet for my serious shopping.

Still, when I lived in New York and San Francisco, I greatly enjoyed the experience of urban shopping. Much of the time I simply strolled around places like Rockefeller Center or Union Square. I also walked up Fifth Avenue to see the great window decorations. In the lavishly appointed stores, I circulated mostly empty-handed among shoppers weighed down with full bags.

Now that we’re well into December, this “missing in action” feeling has had unexpected consequences. My son and I traded observations over the phone recently. He described the annual preoccupation with Christmas shopping as a boom box permanently blasting in his ear. That’s gone.

We both have tuned out so much of the other holiday blather: virtually all advertising, especially for the bad “family” movies; conversations among friends about how they are running out of shopping time; piped in holiday music, which I don’t hear at all, because I’m not in the stores.

Yes, the grandchildren are excited, as they should be. Their tree is up, even though they’ll be away for the Christmas days. Finally, this year, two San Diego educational organizations will get our collective contribution — not an enormous amount but a tidy sum.

We are focusing on what’s always been important for us: the family gathering (although we won’t all be together this year); a holiday party with friends; great music. We’re not religious, but we have always felt the “spirit” of the season, and I still believe in Santa Claus.

Yes, we have killed an important part of American Christmas — shopping. Our holiday, however, is already more tranquil than in previous seasons. Peace on earth starts here.

Cathy Robbins is a San Diego writer.

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