Bright, puffy pine trees glittering with golden angels, rosy cherubs, pale pink seashells, clusters of red balls, swirls of creamy pearls, a blanket of tiny sequins and flickering lights--Tiny Tim would not have dared to dream of the abundance contained in the average shopping mall. Never mind that the real Scrooge faced death and found a change of heart; the shoppers who cheerfully spend $30 on the "delightful, hand-crafted of porcelain, entirely hand painted Dickens' Village lighted pieces and accessories" are still using the dizzying excesses of Christmas for a Scrooge-like self-discovery of sort. With their gluttonous purchases, they will spoil the Tiny Tim inside them with life-size Santa's and cards featuring fake antique drawings, a carefully marketed facade for Americans' need to be playful, enthusiastic, emotional for one day a year. All hearts go home for Christmas reads in a sign in one store. But first, a body must make it past the mall.


Even before Thanksgiving, the shopping spree begins. It isn't the gifts as much as the accessories that make for an innocent Christmas: Cute Angels Magnets, Christmas-themed money-holders, scrolls of ivory and maroon and golden ribbons, Chili-Pepper Lights for the tree, the happy skaters that make monotonous circular tracks in polyester snow flakes, and basket upon basket of jingling glass tree ornaments. A woman in a professional raincoat wants her two sets of snowmen figurines now, and the manager had better face her because she had requested them to be held and this is really inconvenient.

If it's true that "collections are like family in that you love them as a whole but appreciate each member's individuality," as the Dayton's catalog proclaims, what better place to start than a family of stuffed bears. No hungry beasts here: Christmas bears care "We talk! warm wishes from cold weather friends" is the promise from Ralph Lauren's Polo Sport, the Bear that Cares(TM) At the Santabear Hibernation Station(TM), a $37.50 Firefighter Santabear(TM) will "take this time to wish you a happy holiday season and remind you of some fire safety tips for this time of the year." Merrily Bear(TM), with its scruffy, honey-colored fur, stands out as the personification of familial love: "When I was a little girl, I loved to sit with my mother as she sewed and altered clothing. I was her 'assistant,' organizing her huge collection of buttons and scraps of fabric. When I created Merrily Bear, I thought of those precious hours watching my Mom make old things new again. That is why Merrily has an old-fashioned, worn quality, as if she was handmade by Mom with pieces of fabric and lots of love." Signed: June, Hallmark(TM) artist.

Then there's the smell of the season: While you "listen to the spirit of season," on a collection of CDs and cassettes, you can get in touch with nature using Scentsation, Just Cut Christmas Tree Fragrance(TM) --"natural pine aroma for trees and wreaths, non-aerosol, environmentally safe concentrated scent, long-lasting." Other choices include Holiday Jubilee(TM) a "decorative holder with scented candle," in shape and color, just like a cranberry sauce boat, Santa-decorated birdhouses, bags of real pine cones and eucalyptus, evergreen-scented, white candles, with actual leaves and needles embedded in the wax, ("Americana, and craft-inspired accessories" that,") or Christmas Memories(TM) home fragrance sprays at $7.50.

Instead of adoring the child in the manger the mall-angels dress the table: Symphony of Angels(TM), an orange, brown, and green concerto of angel-shaped pasta; Angel's Food(TM), a tree ornament shaped like a cupcake with white shiny wings. Even Santa is a gourmand with a hole in his stomach filled with chocolate cookies and milk cartoons. Upturn him and an unlikely cascade of snowflakes fall on the snacks. Yet, inner Tiny Tim wants more--feelings, emotions, love. Which is where the Christmas cards come in.

Friendship, Wife, Husband, I Love You, Cards For Kids, Granddaughter, Grandson, Daughter, Daughter and Husband, Son, Son and Wife, Niece/Nephew, Aunt/ Uncle, Sister, Brother, Grandparents, Dad, Mom. For my Hairstylist, For a Nice School Bus Driver. For the husband: "There is nothing else I would rather do/than share a Christmas hug with you." For the wife: "Your love is a wonderful gift. It is something too priceless to purchase; it is something not found on a shelf...you give me a Wonderful gift of yourself." Even Baby gets a card: "It is your first Christmas. You are everything nice and everything dear./You are everything lovable all through the year/--and that is the reason this wish just for you/is for everything happy each day the year through! Merry Christmas, Sweet Baby!"

Sweet Baby can't read, of course. But tears spring into the eyes of our inner Tiny Tim.

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