by Marc Kovac, Capital Bureau Chief

Columbus -- Do you remember what you were doing three years ago this week?

If you were like many of us living in northeastern Ohio at the time, there's a good chance you were shivering under the mistletoe, waiting for lights and heat to come back on.

In late December 2004, a massive ice storm toppled trees and electric lines and left thousands of people without power for the holiday. Driveways and automobiles and roadways were buried under inches of snow and ice. At the former Kovac household in Wayne County, a tree in the front yard bent into the driveway, prompting new appreciation for that Robert Frost poem about swinging from birches.

My wife and young'uns and some friends feasted on fried chicken (purchased from one of the few restaurants in town that still had power) in the dark while trying to keep warm with layers of clothes and flaming logs in the fireplace.

We were fortunate: The lights at our house were back on within 24 hours. Others had to do without for weeks, leaving many a Christmas ham uncooked during the yuletide.

My family has marked the occasion every year since with a "No Electricity Day," generally just before Dec. 25. It's a good exercise in simple living that makes us more thankful for food and family and furnace.

Here's how it works:

We give the kids plenty of advance warning in preceding days against touching light switches and appliances and sometimes read accounts from writers (Laura Ingalls Wilder is a good one) about American life before electrification.

We invite some friends over to share in the experience (including some of those that spent that first, unintentional No Electricity Day with us back in '04, and whose company we will miss now that we're in capital city).

During the day, if it's cold and there's adequate frozen precipitation, we bundle up the kids for some outdoor levity, including but not limited to snowball throwing, snow-fort building and snowy-tree climbing.

In the evening, we roast hot dogs and marshmallows in the fireplace.

When it gets really dark, we light the Advent candles, and I break out the dulcimer for a few festive songs.

Everybody goes to bed early, because it's too dark to do much of anything else -- 8 p.m. feels like midnight when you've spent several hours caring for (and chasing) children by candlelight.

Subsequent days are filled with light and warmth and making merry; our "No Electricity Day" tradition helps keep those things in the right perspective.

You ought to try it -- if for no other reason than to lower your electric bill for the month.

Maybe this is the answer to the state's electric deregulation worries.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Newspapers Capital Bureau chief. E-mail him at mkovac@dixcom.com. His Capital Blog can be found online at blogs.recordpub.com/capitalblog.