On Dec. 1, Ethel Siegel of the Elliot Siegel Music Management Co. bundled up 500 brochures, wrapped them into a well-made package, and took them to the Friendship Station post office.

Her package was addressed to an associate in Winter Haven, Fla., Jane Curtiss.

On Dec. 4, Jane received the package. If contained four copies of a new book by Charles Kuralt, CBS's roving reporter.

Jane called Ethel. "I'm curious," she said. "Why did you send me four copies of Kuralt's book instead of the 500 brochures I was expecting?"

The question left Ethel flabbergasted, of course. She had sent brochures, not books. She said she'd check with the post office.

However, a clerk at Friendship Station said nothing could be done from this end; the recipient would have to make the inquiry. And when Jane asked at the Winter Haven post office, she was told she'd have to ask Jacksonville, because that was the transfer point.

"The only explanation I can think of for a mixup of this kind," Jane replied, "is that two packages were broken open in the same postal facility, and that whoever rewrapped the contents got the addresses switched. But when a package is rewrapped after being damaged in transit, doesn't the Postal Service always indicate on the outside that the package was damaged in transit and rewrapped by the Postal Service?" t

"Yes, I guess so," the clerk answered brightly, "but you'll have to admit that you got very good service. We delivered your package in only three days."

Ah, the blessings that flow from automation! We're now making mistakes much faster than we used to make them. However, the response from Jacksonville will presumably be handled by a human being, and will therefore take a little longer. DECK THE HALLS

The only requirement for being a columnist is that the writer must have the brass to pass himself off as the world's greatest expert. It makes no difference what the question is, we columnists know all the answers.

However, I am now hearing from people who think Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if they didn't decorate their homes with strings of red and green light bulbs, and perhaps floodlights as well. And I am also hearing from people who think Christmas lighting is an outrageous waste of precious energy. Some readers advocate bare-bones lighting. Others ask, "Wouldn't it suffice to put up decorations that can be seen during daylight hours? If those decorations consist of strings of colored bulbs, couldn't we just refrain from turning on the electricity?"

This is an issue I wouldn't touch with an 11-foot pole, even if dodging it results in my being unfrocked as a columnist. I know how I feel about decorative gaslight installations that burn night and day, either for commercial or residential use. But the observance of Christmas is something that must be left to personal decisions. NEWS NOTE

Chub Feeney, president of the National League, says the league's club owners have indicated no visible sentiment for expansion at the time -- either into Washington or any other city. Prevailing opinion among the owners favors preservation of the status quo, he says.

This leaves Washington with little prospect for a return of major league baseball. Baltimore owns the "territorial rights" to Washington, and is not likely to permit an American League team to move in here. Many residents of this area spent many dollars going to Baltimore to watch the orioles play during 1979, and I don't think Edward Bennett Williams would be enthusiastic about losing that revenue. PERSONAL NOTE

Ed Hoyt, Annapolis: All my dictionaries show "sprang or sprung" for the past tense of "spring," with "sprang" listed first. The choice has been available for at least several decades. I didn't trace it back any further than that. WHAT'S IN A NAME?

A new restaurant will open here soon. It will be mamed Houlihan's Old Place. THESE MODERN TIMES

Herm Albright reports that Andy Rooney writes his column on an old manual typewriter. Rooney explains, "Somebody gave me a new electric typewriter, but there's no use pretending you can use machinery that thinks faster than you do." DON'T BE BITTER, DON

Late word from Don Epperson of the Texas Tourist Council:

"A Texas judge has decided to crack down on crime. He has started handing out much longer suspended sentences."