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Trying to celebrate the holidays at work was an extremely frustrating experience for me last year.

In their zeal to maintain separation of church and state, someone at my former school had decided the only thing we could celebrate in December was winter.

But I was OK with that. Although my sons have been to schools in other states where teachers chose to study how various cultures celebrate the holiday season, I could understand how even that might result in a lawsuit here in the politically charged area surrounding our nation’s capital.

Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah would have to remain at home while we celebrated winter at school.

Have I mentioned that I don’t even like winter?

That didn’t really matter because I was looking for a reason to decorate, and winter was as good a reason as any.

So I went to Wal-Mart and purchased snowmen and lots of fluffy, shiny stuff in as many non-religious, bright colors as I could find.

Then I stayed late one afternoon and covered the bulletin board outside our classroom with all sorts of winter decorations. While I was standing on a chair, stapling Frosty to the wall, I noticed another teacher peering out of the mailroom. She looked a little too interested in my decorating frenzy.

The following morning, I was politely informed by the administration that my bulletin board posed a fire hazard to the school and had to come down immediately.

Did my décor posed any threat to the safety of anyone at that school? No. But it did violate a rule somewhere about things sticking out from the wall.

Spending the past three years in the public school system has taught me that there are a lot of rules, and at least someone in the building knows every one of them.

There is no doubt in my mind who ratted me out. For the remainder of the school year, I gave my nosy co-worker my own private nickname: the Grinch.

She took joy in ruining my little winter celebration, much like the main character in that Dr. Seuss classic.

I really shouldn’t have let the incident bother me so much that I remember it with such clarity a year later. But there is something about Grinches that really, really annoys me.

Grinches like watching the tinsel come down rather than being excited the moment it goes up. They complain about the crowds while everyone else enjoys the excitement that stirs the air throughout the month of December.

Instead of enjoying holiday goodies, they talk about how fattening everything is and bring up a phrase that should never be uttered before Dec. 31: New Year’s resolutions.

The only way to keep Grinches from spoiling the fun for everyone else is to kill their foul mood with kindness.

I have come up with a way for people to fight off the Grinches in their own lives by declaring the first week of December “Give a Grinch a Gift Week.”

If there is someone in your life who is trying to rain on your Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah parade this year, pick them up a gift and deliver it with a smile. They will probably be shocked by your actions because it doesn’t follow the pattern of how people normally treat them.

If you are lucky, you might just have the same effect on your Grinch as the characters in that Dr. Seuss classic. That would make the winter holiday much more pleasant for all of us.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 19 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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