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ONE heartening trend of Christmases recently past appears to be continuing this season: an awareness that the cup of holiday cheer is not necessarily alcoholic. Our pluralistic society has learned to accept individual preferences on many things -- remembering that daughter's boyfriend will bring his own supply of tofu to Christmas dinner, for example. And so it is appropriate that that consideration extend to those whose holiday spirit is not 86 proof.

People's motivations for avoiding alcohol vary. For many, the use of alcohol at any time of year is not consistent with their desire to keep their thinking clear for activity and spiritual direction. Some have simply decided that alcohol gets in the way of the things they want to do with their lives. Others are concerned more narrowly with safety on the roads. They observe liability lawsuits being pressed against hosts and bar keepers when accidents occur. Those struggling with a serious drinking proble m can be grateful for fruit juice or the like.

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And wholesome alternatives abound. Supermarkets and delis carry wide ranges of mineral waters and fruit juices. Newspapers and magazines print recipes for colorful concoctions made possible by the blender or food processor. And restaurants tend to offer a broader array of beverage choices nowadays.

For a holiday season freer of pressure for social drinking: Cheers.

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