Entire families should not dress in Santa sweaters. They should not gather in front of the hearth for a family portrait and such a portrait should under no circumstances find its way into a greeting card. Santa sweaters are not cute, and the long ones that fit over the hips -- the ones that Mother invariably pairs with black leggings -- make your butt look big.

No adult should ever be seen in public wearing a Santa hat unless said adult is standing in front of a Salvation Army collection bucket ringing a bell. No adult should ever wander the streets in full Santa regalia unless he is fully prepared to slide down a chimney on demand. No woman should ever dress up like Santa because Santa was a man, but if she insists on doing so, she should be fully prepared to explain why Santa was a cross-dresser.

Santa, the elves and the reindeer should never be co-opted to protest a war -- as one Kris Kringle kook did recently to voice her concerns about war in Iraq. That would be akin to dressing up like Frosty the Snowman to persuade bureaucrats to forgive Third World debt. Or marching on the Mall as the Great Pumpkin in support of Roe v. Wade. By any measure, such costuming has a way of detracting from intelligent debate.

All novelty ties are ugly. No man should ever wear a tie printed with red and green Christmas lights unless it has been given to him by his children, and if that is the case, he should announce that fact immediately upon entering a room. No manager should pair a tie covered in Grinch faces with a business suit in an attempt to show his employees that he has holiday spirit; it will only alert them to the fact that he has bad taste and poor judgment and that there are a million other reasons why "you are not the boss of me."

During the Christmas season it is the thought that counts, so take care to think long and hard before tucking that mistletoe into your hair or pinning it to your lapel. It is never the dream date who is sporting the mistletoe but rather the guy with the sweaty palms who wears his pants too high and the woman who teases her hair and refers to her bras and panties as "foundation garments." Who do you want to be?

Christmas underwear and pajamas are fine, mostly because no one will see them, and the few who do theoretically love you anyway. But remember that even your mother doesn't want to see you in red long johns with a trapdoor.

Christmas socks are questionable. They straddle the line between private silliness and public ridiculousness. But if the truth be told, they are best left dangling from the mantel waiting to be stuffed.

There is little good that can be said about Christmas-themed dressing, a category of anti-style so effusively appalling that by January one can barely look at a simple red sweater without it leaving an upset akin to having just downed a shot of sour egg nog. Even the typically tasteful find their keen eye for dress blurred by all the liquored-up chocolate truffles and over-soaked baba au rhum. They reach for red even though it's not their color or scramble to find the wreath brooch that a Secret Santa gave them a few years ago and wonder if anyone will notice that it's missing several rhinestones. Why do men pull out too-tight sweater vests and lumpy cardigans with leather buttons when they so wisely shun them the rest of the year?

What is this silly pressure to dress like a Christmas tree, Mrs. Kringle or Bing Crosby?

Folks spend so much time decorating the home, the yard, the cookies. Surely that is enough. There is no need to sprinkle glitter in the decolletage, wrap garland around a ponytail or wind blinking lights around the neck. These are not signs of festivity or a measure of one's enthusiasm for a party. It is excess. It is wretched. It is naughty, not nice.

Tree chic? Even in the semi-privacy of your shoes, seasonal stockings are icky.Like it or not, Santa clothes are coming to town, and fashion statements like these earn a lump of coal.