A seasonal boost for the women's-magazine following. In 1978 Oregon-based writers Robinson and Staeheli put together a workshop on coping with Christmas pressures, and eventually they took it nationwide. The result is this wide-awake volume on dealing with everything from saving time and money to bucking the gift-giving code. (Expecting a gift? You don't have to give one.) ""Recapturing the simple joys"" doesn't mean returning to Christmases past. Women, the authors point out, are expected to be ""Christmas magicians""; they try to orchestrate all the festivities, then wonder why they feel put upon. Men, the ""christmas stagehands,"" are discouraged from emotional involvement; so they often feel left out. Children don't really thrive on those TV-promoted brand-name toys; rather, they need a relaxed time with the family, realistic expectations about gifts, an evenly paced holiday season, and strong family traditions. The problems are neither overdramatized nor overworked, however, before the authors embark upon solutions. For one thing, there is no single right way to celebrate Christmas; singles, divorced parents, and small families should not feel compelled to emulate the stereotypical nuclear unit. Among the plenitude of practical hints: if gift-giving seems commercialized or expensive, experiment with different approaches--a gift per family, or gifts only for the kids--as long as everyone understands the new ground rules. If too much ado leaves the kids feeling neglected, cut back on social commitments, involve them in the preparations, set aside time to give them your full attention. With recipes, decorating ideas, even sources of seasonal purchases: thorough and heartening.