Remembering Christmastimes past is a big part of enjoying every Christmas season.

Accompanying my father on a trek through the fields in search of a just-right cedar tree was a favorite time. He usually had spotted a good prospect months before in a fencerow somewhere, but he knew that I had to look at every candidate before I was satisfied -- from the scrubbiest to the most stately that was far too tall for our ceiling.

Patiently he followed me around until I settled on his choice.

Perhaps my most memorable Christmas was the morning when I got up to find colored lights on the tree. "Rural Electrification" had come to our house in the fall of 1939, and my parents had secretly purchased one string of electric lights and hung them on the tree after I went to sleep the night before.

Those lights put me in a magical world. There were only nine bulbs total, as I remember -- two each of red, blue, yellow and green and one white. I would hold reflective objects near each bulb and glory in how it transformed the color of everything around it.

Going to town in the weeks before Christmas was exciting. Decorations in the stores might be no more than red and green "rope" strung diagonally across the ceiling with a big paper bell hung in the middle, but the effect was special to me. I stopped along the street to admire what was showcased in every window -- winter coats and hoods, shiny jewelry, practical tools to make work easier, and toys that I knew would bring hours of joy if I could hold them in my hands.

Tiny streaks of soot were on my face after a trip to town, as nearly all businesses and homes were heated by coal furnaces and fireplaces.

In the open country where we lived, the wind carried the soot from our chimney away and scattered it.

Browsing the Christmas edition of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue was as much fun as window-shopping in town. I knew not to expect to receive everything that caught my eye, but I could dream.

I have no memories of being disappointed because of what I did not receive at Christmas -- only pleasure with what I did. Dollars were simply not available for buying lots of gifts, and I knew that.

Buying gifts for family and friends was carefully budgeted and thought out and was fun. I might give Grandma a pretty handkerchief, a soft powder puff or a gadget for the kitchen. Grandpa's gift was always the same--sweet flavored twists of chewing tobacco. They came in a box resembling a round oatmeal box, presenting a challenge to wrap. Grandpa always took his time unwrapping, pretending he had no idea what that present could be.

Good memories, revived afresh by Christmas.