"Peace on Earth" has always worked better as a Christmas greeting than as a description of reality. But that doesn't keep people like Sharon McNichol from being optimistic.

McNichol is Utah coordinator of the third annual World Peace Celebration, a planetwide hour of peaceful thoughts aimed at reducing global conflict. This year's celebration, like last year's, begins at 5 a.m. Dec. 31 in Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus.The 2,000-plus people expected to attend the Utah event will include several Soviet Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty inspectors who have lived in the Salt Lake Valley since July.

World Peace celebrants like to think that the past two annual peace events have created an atmosphere of understanding that has brought the Soviet Union and the United States closer than they've been in years.

"Everybody who's gotten up that early in the morning the past two years deserves to take the credit," says McNichol.

At the same moment that Utahns are celebrating peace in Kingsbury Hall, more than a billion people will be doing the same thing in 150 countries around the world, according to celebration organizers. That's nearly a fifth of the world's population, which may seem a rather overly hopeful projection, but hopefulness is what the World Peace Celebration is all about.

The idea for a peace day began in 1984, when John Randolph Price, author of "The Planetary Commission," first advanced his theory that if enough people pray for and visualize peace at the same time, it will begin to happen.

So that every place on Earth can celebrate peace on the same day, all events will take place when it is noon Greenwich Mean Time. That makes it 5 in the morning Mountain Standard Time.

Despite the early hour, over 2,000 gathered last Dec. 31., and McNichol hopes for an overflow audience this year.

The hourlong event will include meditation, song, dance and a video presentation. Produced by Jan Nickman of Miramar Productions in Seattle especially for the Utah Peace Celebration, the 30-minute music video "makes you feel like you're an eagle," getting to corners of the universe you normally can't get to, McNichol says.

Speakers will also include Dr. Edwin Firmage, University of Utah professor of constitutional and international law, and Dr. Au-Deane Cowley, associate professor of social work.

Utahns are encouraged to arrive between 4:30 and 5 a.m. McNichol also reminds us that 5 a.m. Dec. 31 is the morning before New Year's Eve, not the morning after.

World Peace Celebration organizers say they will continue to hold these annual events until there actually is peace on Earth.