Christmas week means different things to different people. To college basketball teams, it means holiday tournaments.

Of the area teams, Georgetown plays earliest and in the most prestigious tournament -- the Holiday Festival in New York's Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas (6-1) open the tournament Wednesday night against a tough (5-1) Boston College team. St. John's (N.Y.) and Lafayette meet in the other first-round game that night with the winners playing at 9 p.m. Friday for the championship.

For the Hoyas this will be a major test. If they emerge as tournament champions they should be a legitimate top-10 candidate the first week of 1980. Additionally, both St. John's and Boston College are in the newly formed Big East Conference with the Hoyas, so even though the games don't count in league standings, they are important psychologically.

Maryland, American, Howard and The University of the District of Columbia are also in holiday tournaments this weekend, the Eagles playing in the Manufacturers Hanover Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y., while Maryland hosts its own Maryland Invitational Tournament in Cole Field House. Howard opens the Evensville tournament Friday against the host school, Evensville: UDC plays against Gettsburg the same night in the Gino's Classic in Baltimore.

George Mason and Navy each have non-tournament games Saturday.Navy (3-2) hosts Millersville State while George Mason (1-3) is at home against South Carolina State.

George Washington and Catholic have the week off.

American (4-4) has a chance to gain some recognition this weekend, opening the tournament against St. Bonaventure. In the second game, Iona, flirting with the top twenty all season, led by one of the nation's best center (Jeff Ruland), plays Air Force. Junior forward Boo Bowers leads the Eagles' scoring with a 26.8 average.

Maryland will almost certainly win the MIT. The Terps open against a weak (1-7) Miami of Ohio team Friday with temple (5-2) and Harvard (4-3) playing the other game. Temple is the best of the other three but does not have one of its strongest teams although the Owls are always well-coached by Don Casey.

Nevertheless the Terps, who play seven of their nine December games in Cole, should win the tournament for the eighth time in nine years. The only time they did not win it was 1974 when UCLA did. That was also the only year the tournament sold out and with consistently mediocre fields attendance was declined steadily.

One of the better tournaments in the country this weekend will be played in Richmond. There, Richmond will play Old Dominion and Virginia will take on Virginia Commonwealth in Friday's opening round of the Richmond Times-Dispatch Tournament. If, as expected, Virginia and Old Dominion play the final the next night, it should be a donnybrook. The Monarchs thinks they are as good or better than the Cavaliers; the Cavs want to quiet their critics after their loss last week to San Jose State in California.