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Suppress the Grinch in all of us

Feeling a bit Grinch-like lately? Wondering why Christmas isn't what it used to be? In the immortal words of Bill Clinton - or was it Dick Cheney? - I feel your pain.

I don't remember, as a child, ever having to work at conjuring up the Christmas spirit. It always seemed to possess me of its own accord, usually around mid-September.

As an adult, though, I often find that the holidays have sort of snuck up on me, like tax day or my annual physical. Maybe that's because, now that I'm a grown-up, I've lost much of the child-like wonder with which I formerly regarded the season.

These days the things I enjoy most - having my daughter home from college, getting a few days off from work, knowing my December Visa bill won't arrive until January - seem to have little to do with Christmas itself.

Of course this Scrooge-ish frame of mind isn't particularly well received in a household still blessed with young children. So I've learned a few tricks over the years to help myself work up the requisite enthusiasm. Feel free to borrow liberally if you, too, have been bitten by the hum bug.

Take in a pageant. One of the best ways to invoke the holiday cheer is to attend a Christmas pageant, choral concert or similar event. These always go a long way toward helping me recall some of my favorite Christmas memories, such as the time my 2-year-old threw up on the Three Wise Men during a live nativity. Who knew frankincense was so absorbent?

Take in the lights. Another long-standing family tradition that never fails to get me in a festive mood is driving around to look at Christmas lights. That is, if the term "festive mood" can be used to describe the shock, awe and occasional chagrin with which I view the efforts of various local lightsmiths.

Without being overly critical, let me put it this way: At Christmastime, tasteful is good but apparently garish is OK, too. Certainly the neighborhood architectural review committees, those supreme arbiters of curbside taste the other 11 months, are strangely silent during December. So I guess the rest of us should take our cue from them and just enjoy the lights, in whatever size, shape, color and quantity we find them.

Wear something Christmas-y. Speaking of festive, there's nothing that says "I've got the holiday spirit" like a bright red tie with a bold Santa Claus pattern. Of course, such a sartorial decision also makes other statements, such as "I'm a pathetic momma's boy whose wife picks out his clothes." But never mind that. It's Christmas!

So if you're feeling a bit blue, as opposed to red and green, consider one of these strategies. Better hurry, though. There are a limited number of live nativities left for your toddler to throw up on.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.