Snowmen. Snowflakes. Lights. Santas. Sleighs. Bells. Sleigh bells. Nativity sets. Christmas music. Old Christmas music. Ornaments. Old German ornaments. Christmas cards. Christmas postcards. Christmas postcards with Santa in something other than a red suit.

You name it - chances are someone collects it. Christmas collectibles have never been more popular. Collectors seem to fall into one of three categories: those that collect old things, those that collect modern, limited edition things and those that just collect things because they like them, and they don't particularly care how old the items are or where they come from.But serious collectors do pay attention to such things, and some 1,200 of them belong to a group called The Golden Glow of Christmas. It's an organization for people who collect thing 25 years old or older, says Bob Dalluge, the group's treasurer, who lives in Minnesota.

Golden Glow was founded about 12 years ago in Chicago by a man named Jerry Ehernberger who was interested in Christmas lights and wanted to meet other people who shared his interest. The group now has an annual summer convention and a bimonthly newsletter.

All areas of Christmas are popular, says Dalluge. Ornaments are particularly hot. Victorian ornaments come in a variety of styles - blown-glass balls, dainty pastel fruits made of cotton, embossed cardboard pieces with metallic finishes. The best ones, he says, were probably made in the late 1890s through the 1910s.

But they are getting harder to find, he says. So now you have modern companies making new ornaments using the old molds and materials and styles. One of them is Christopher Radko, whose Christmas tree once tipped over, breaking all of Radko's antique ornaments. So Radko went back to his native Poland to try to get more. He found that no one was making them, but the old molds were still around. Now Radko uses 200 glass blowers, silversmiths and decorators throughout Europe to make his collectable ornaments.

Collecting Christmas items is popular, says Dalluge, because it brings back so many of the feelings of childhood. "A lot of these things have been handed down from generation to generation."

That's a sentiment echoed by Steve Ellingboe, editor of Today's Collector magazine.

"Christmas items are unique among collectables," he said from his Iola, Wisc., home, "because they were handed down and not thrown away. So many of the old things are valuable because they are scarce; people threw them away. Christmas items were more likely to be saved. And so there are a lot of things out there and some prices are pretty reasonable."

Postcards, ornaments and other things can often be found for $5 and $10. Of course, some go for much more. A glass ornament featuring Noah's Ark was auctioned off at the Golden Glow convention this summer and sold for $1,000.

Another reason they are so popular, says Ellingboe, is that Christmas collectables remind people of what for many is "the happiest time of year." Most people have pleasant associations with Christmas, he says, and enjoy having some tangible reminders. They can look at their collections and feel some of the Christmas spirit they enjoy.

As to what's popular right now among the serious collectors, Ellingboe says baby boomer's toys - toys and games from the '50s and early '60s - are among the hottest items. The bubble lights from the '50s are also very big. Ornaments are always in vogue. Postcards are popular right now. And another very hot category is black Americana. "Any items associated with black culture are hot now, and that carries over into the Christmas area," he says.

The modern, limited-edition collectibles have also found a niche, says Elligboe. In fact his company has a separate magazine, Collector's Mart, devoted just to them. "The little villages and cottages are being sold by the millions."

For a lot of collectors, the value of the items is less important than the sentiment. They collect snowmen or Santa Claus figures just because they like them.

For Pat Marlor, in Sandy, nutcrackers have special appeal. She just kind of fell into collecting them, she says. "It just kind of evolved. My grandmother was German, so we had that association. And my oldest daughter took dancing and we fell in love with `The Nutcracker' ballet."

And so now she has a shelf in her house where nutcrackers are displayed year-round. "I have some of the real German ones, and some of the little cheap ones." They range in size from three 3 inches to 3 feet. One of her recent acquisitions was a nutcracker that looks like Daniel Boone. "Some I've bought; some were gifts from friends."

And collecting has become a family affair. "My daughter now collects harp ornaments."

Her daughter, says Marlor, will have something to take with her when she leaves home that will be meaningful throughout her life. A reminder of Christmas and her childhood. And for many people, that's what collecting is all about.

For information about The Golden Glow of Christmas, write to Bob Dalluge, 6401 Winsdale St., Golden Valley, MN 55427.

For information about Today's Collector or Collector's Mart magazines, write to Krause Publications, 700 East State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001.