Brian Hiatt
November 25, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

It won’t be a very Justin Christmas this year. ”An American Idol Christmas Special” (Fox, Tuesday, 8 p.m.), will boast carols from ”Idol” hands including Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, Kimberly Locke, Christina Christian, and Ruben Studdard. But Mr. Guarini will be nowhere to be found. Why? ”He was in New Zealand and couldn’t make it,” says ”Idol” producer Ken Warwick. But dry your eyes, Guarini-philes, and take a look how those Idol-ers who DID make it will celebrate the holidays.

FEAT OF CLAY Guarini was originally intended to be the special’s host, but a runner-up who actually sells CDs — Clay Aiken — will fill his shoes. And if the show’s producer is to be believed, Aiken’s talent for emceeing (think Ed Sullivan, not Eminem) matches his preternatural pipes. ”Clay was a total natural,” says Warwick. ”We struck gold there.”

Clay will do plenty of singing as well. He’ll start with ”Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day,” a tune originally attempted by a chanteuse who shares his melodramatic bent, chest-thumper Celine Dion. The Clayster will also belt Irving Berlin’s classic ”White Christmas” with Kimberly Caldwell, and will chime in with ”The First Noel” during a show-closing medley of standards.

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