Well, today is the big day. The children have slept restlessly, their eyes as big as saucers, and hardly a creature has been stirring, not even a mouse.

Over at my place, one of the big royal palms has been brought into the foyer, and Ramsbotham has affixed the traditional mushroom at its peak. We are having the entire lodge over for punch tonight, and if the brambles are cleared from the moat in time there will be swimming.

Christmas in August!

The ancient tradition gains more followers each year, and one is gratified. Reasons for Christmas In August

* Why wait.

* August is a sullen and miserable month, breathing its hot breath upon the necks of the populace uninvited to Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras, Cape May, Cape Fear, Cape Verde or Las Brisas in Acapulco, with its 250 private swimming pools, so it is only fitting that while these thoughtless, self-aggrandizing false friends are absent some great holiday celebration should go on without them.

* Easy shopping.

* Gives the children Something To Do other than roll in the dust.

* "The Bells of St. Mary's," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Muppets Go to the North Pole" are not on television.

* The relatives do not expect you.

* No "nog" need be served or consumed.

* It is likely quite warm, and guests will not have any excuse to poke around in your bedroom closets, rifle your bureau drawers, and test the mattress, which is the invariable behavior of wintertime visitors (sad -- you thought better of them) upon hearing the hospitable phrase "just throw your coats on the bed." Climate: A Myth Exploded

Snow, jingling bells, sleds, frostbite, runny noses, ice skates, Currier & Ives, steamy-breathed dogs, tire chains, pitch darkness at 5:30 p.m., mittens, howling icy winds, split lips, flaked skin under your socks, dead batteries, and slices of dry turkey breast with the consistency of parakeet cuttlebone have nothing to do with any true world-view of Christmas.

On December 25, it is quite warm in Los Angeles, Rio, Heraklion, Key Biscayne, and in much else of the holiday-celebrating world, a fact often forgotten by parkaed chauvinists up Boston way. A Panamanian Zoner would be puzzled by the attachment of snow to Christmas. An Australian, for whom December is midsummer, would laugh out loud.

Christmas in August, climactically, is in fact far more natural than the slush-and-icicle version, for which the tannenbaum, that arboreal equivialent of the cactus, prickly and sap-running and soon to be a fire hazard, is the outstanding example: much better the glamorous palm, mushroom-capped and festive in garlands of red and green jalapeno peppers.

On December 25, it is quite warm, you know, in Bethlehem. Secular Ramifications

Carols, gifts to the poor, humility, hymns, and meditation upon the meaning of life and God remain in their grandeur appropriate to true Christmas, December 25, a time of spiritual renewal.

Christmas in August rightly separates secular riotousness from that other season, as Dionysus from the babe; and is characterized not by holiness but by a certain mercantilism and by short-sleeved shirts. Also, it provides approximately six months recovery time before New Year's Eve, which comes next on the kindred calendar. The Way to Celebrate It

It should be very hot, with an ambiance of yule fans, slamming screen doors and a deafening grinding noise from that automatic ice-cream maker your brother-in-law brought, which requires all the materials necessary to repair the Hoover Dam in order to create peach soup at $4 a serving.

For a particularly opulent air, have Ramsbotham and the other servants stand in the corners of the dining room, holding the yule fans about chest-high with their faces expressionless. Run the cord down their pants leg, just like Ed Sullivan's microphone wire. It can be hard to get servants to do this, but it makes all the difference in the world.

The Christmas-in-August presents, individually wrapped, should be piled under the Christmas palm, and some corpulent member of the family be made ready in red suit and traditional white beard and sleeping cap. To allow for the temperature of the season, Santa can be hosed with well water before donning his outfit.

We hang the stockings with care in the back of the garage, which tends to draw the youngsters well out of sight. Tell them to watch the sky, Santa will be along in a moment if they are good.

The party should have a guest of honor, preferably either a Supreme Court justice or a visiting author not currently on the trade paperback best-seller list. If all persons from both categories are on Cape Cod, you may substitute anybody from the World Bank or a twice-surnamed Englishman.

The guest of honor is then introduced around, made seem as interesting as possible through the recitation of untruths he will find it hard to flat deny ("Group Captain Heaver-Howell here has just won the Nobel Prize for his roses, Claire darling"), and after brandy the presents should be opened. There can be dancing if you have thought to provide an orchestra, or polo, or, if your cellar is big enough, cockfights.

Relax! That's the secret. It's your Christmas in August, and anyway, the people who matter aren't there anyhow, they're living it up on Long Island, Fire Island, Shelter Island, Fishers Island, Block Island, Nantucket Island, the Elizabeth Islands, Mount Desert Island, Gibson Island and Rhode Island.

A few verses of "Good King Wenceslas" will remind you of the company you are keeping, so singing should be strictly forbidden. Presents

Do not spend a lot on these people. Try a pair of sunglasses from Drug Fair, a set of polyethylene ice-cube trays, corncob prongs, or a bolt of K-Mart seersucker. Do not send cards. Wear your Christmas message on a T-shirt.

For the children, bars of soap and a skate key are traditional in our family. If they protest, say "Don't worry, maybe we'll go to Baskin-Robbins later if you're good." Alternative Methods

Do it your way. Recapitulation

Why did they leave you behind, huh?

Here it is August 25 and you are reading a newspaper at home, lollygagging about, barking at the dog and wearing to the office old shirts that you would not be seen in in October, and talking about the weather with the postman.

Why is it that the postman isn't on vacation?

Because somebody has to deliver the mail.

Likely one's own necessity is somewhat less. The office is very quiet. They don't care if you're there or not. Well, you'll call on the big Colgate account. Ha. The Colgate account is in Aspen. Maybe you'll take a meeting with Senator Thurmidor. Fat chance, he left for Mackinac Island last Tuesday. Well at least you can have that painful chat with Muldoon, who's last on the achievement list and first on the fire-him list, who hasn't sold one unit of the product since April, and whose expense account just got stuck in Accounting like a chicken wing in a garbage grinder.

Ah, but -- Muldoon is in Maine, in a wooden cabin on Penobscot Bay, and has just landed a 12-pound sea trout on 8-pound-test monofilament and has a grin on his puss you woldn't believe and is a hero to his son and a knight to his wife and has had the forethought to put a bottle of wine on ice. Christmas in August

It's the next best thing to not being here, but it isn't even close.