I MENTION THIS only as a meaningful alternative to being buffeted by the pseudo-sentiment of holiday TV commercials ("Oh, the smell of it" and so on), or to being tailed by Samurai Shopper as you walk to your car at the shopping mall.

There are better things to remember.

Every December, my wife Janet and I -- and Janet's immediate family, which is predominantly sisters -- make Christmas tree ornaments. We give away about half of them as stocking stuffers: little crocheted wreaths, clothespin reindeer, cross-stitch Clauses, pine- cone dolls and so forth. The rest we keep.

This is all part of The Christmas Plan.

The Christmas Plan, as I know it, is a complex but unwritten set of tradition-conscious (and budget-conscious) gift-giving regulations governing Janet's whole family. The Plan cannot be explained briefly, as I discovered when we tried recently to draft similar holiday legislation for my half of the family -- which is predominantly brothers.

A major -- and simple -- part of the Plan, in any case, is ornament-making. And making ornaments -- which, actually, is never as simple as it looks -- happily takes up time I would otherwise spend basking in the warm, scientifically dispensed glow of holiday TV commercials. Which (as you know) shave as close as a blade or your money back.

So. A few years ago we pinned loops of ribbon to foam balls, and last year we created yuletide magic with pipe- cleaners. And this year, well -- I can't tell you about this year. My in-laws live in the area, and The Christmas Plan specifically holds that ornaments remain secret until unwrapped on Christmas.

I can say that Janet's ornaments involve little green and red fuzzballs, and mine have to do with Popsicle sticks. And that everyone's ornaments generally involve -- when they're designed, built, first unwrapped or uncrated years later -- the kind of unscientificlly dispensed feelings that those cologne commercials can't touch.