December 20, 2009 6:00 PM

A sense of economic gloom dampens the holiday season

Holiday season 2009, by most indications, is better than the dog we had last year, but the ground underneath is still shaky for most people. Lavish, corporate parties with elaborate ice sculptures and floral arrangements, celebrity disc jockeys and open bars? Gone. Blazing tangles of holiday lights strung from rooftops and trees? A little less so. Packing up for a Christmas on the sandy stretches of Hawaiian beaches? Not so much. And iPods for all the neighbors? Definitely not.

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