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Getting Festive

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Since we have a new house that doesn’t suck and drain the spirit from us all, and since it sits up on a hill overlooking a fairly busy road, and we’ve already had a couple of parties for which to prepare, we have decorated pretty profusely (for us) for the holidays.

We had the lights up in the windows by Thanksgiving weekend and have been adding steadily since: the tree is up and decorated, there’s a festive little Alpine village we hand-painted and set amidst a small sea of cotton (looks more like clouds than snow), rope lights coiling up the main stairway, various seasonal figurines scattered hither and yon, red and green spotlights on the house, etc. It’s all very jolly and addictive: you want to keep adding to the tableau because the fun is in the decorating, the result is really just a byproduct of the action.

I also now understand the impulse to start early because it gives you more time to indulge in the action and marvel at the results of that action. Add to that ABC Family Channel’s “25 Days of Christmas” programming schedule and you’ve got flipping Christmas cheer for about five weeks: close to 10% of the year! And having a 3 year-old jumping up and down about all this when she isn’t watching The Wizard of Oz is added incentive to indulge in holiday madness.

But at least we’re not like these people:

    ”I am a Christmas tree junkie,” declares Rebecca Eckard, 27, a graphic designer and mother of two in Hickory, N.C., who puts up four trees every year. ”I love decorating each one in my collection because of its meaning and its history,” especially a vintage 1960s 4-foot aluminum tree that was a gift from a co-worker. This tree is a ”constant Christmas mortification” to her husband, she giggles.

    Barb Hoatson, 55, a grandmother in Sutherland, Neb., says she wants a tree ”for each special remembrance in my life,” which means putting up a half-dozen, including one in memory of her family’s recently departed Scottish terrier, J.J. ”We can laugh in remembrance of how she had to touch each ornament with her nose to check it out. If we try real hard, we’ll probably see her still,” Hoatson says.

    Susan Ashmore, 43, of Pisgah Forest, N.C, says her husband thinks she has ”borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder” because she puts up 49 trees. This year, because she’s still recovering from lung surgery, she put up ”only” 15. But she plans to rebound in a big way. Next year: 57 trees.

    ”Living in a retirement community when you aren’t retired leaves you with entirely too much time on your hands,” jokes Ashmore, who works in electrical sales when she’s not working on her trees.

    A partial list of her tree themes: mice, Winnie the Pooh, patriotic, Disney, The Wizard of Oz, outer space, folk art, religious, Peanuts, copper, fairies, birds, Eskimos and polar bears, three blown glass trees, four angel trees, three Santa trees, two snowman trees and four animal trees. Her husband is resigned to his fate, but her 15-year-old daughter refuses to have a tree in her bedroom or even in the hallway near her bedroom.

    ”The troubles and stress of everyday life go away when you’re decorating a tree,” Ashmore says. ”They’re like old friends.”

    ….Take social worker Donna Hicks, 49, of Palmyra, Neb.: ”I’m one of those people that if one is good, six is better. I have six trees,” she says. Also, 45 Santas, a nutcracker collection, Christmas cookie jars and teapots, and many, many flamingos — even a flamingo Christmas tree. ”I’m just a little crazy about Christmas.” Just a little.

    How to explain such behavior? ”As people drop their vices, their smoking or drinking and everything bad for you, Christmas has become the new addiction,” Dr. Christmas says. ”It can be a very benign but very expensive habit.”

    ….Some people even conduct tours for total strangers. ”They may come as a stranger, but they leave as a friend, and we have met so many people over the years,” says Virginia Routch, 70. Since 1988, she and her husband, Wendell, 73, have conducted nightly free tours from Thanksgiving to mid-January of their modest home in Hastings, Pa., which they turn into a holiday decorating extravaganza: 17 trees, 10,000 lights, animated Christmas villages outside and multiple train sets in the basement. [USA Today]

See – we’re not like those nuts, now are we?

And of course to balance your Christmas/winter theme yin, you must also have your perpetual summer yang – we do this too:

    Taking a cue from the fashion world, which finally has embraced white after Labor Day, interior designers are welcoming summer colors and banishing winter doldrums with seashell mobiles, seagrass headboards, wave motifs and bleached-wood furniture.

    But bringing the beach home doesn’t seem to be a passing cold-weather trend. Some people are making beach themes a permanent fixture in their homes, blending sea glass into splashboards around the bathroom or sinking seashells in flooring. Wave motifs in floor tiles and countertops also are popular.

    ”Designing with natural objects is back in fashion,” says Marlene Hurley Marshall, a mosaic artist and author of Shell Chic. ”It crosses all cultures. No matter where you’re from, you’ve likely picked up shells on the beach.”

    ….Some examples of what’s considered ”beachy-keen”:

    * Seagrass. Used in bedrooms, bathrooms and even kitchens, seagrass as a floor covering is popular for its texture and durability. ”It’s the modern-day equivalent of wall-to-wall shag carpeting,” Ruffin says.

    * The nautical aesthetic. Experts suggest using sailboat railings to encase a staircase or choosing sailcloth for curtains and shower curtains. Try canoe oars to line the ceiling: ”You lie down and think of paddling through the water,” Sindlinger says.

    * Turquoise. Once a strictly Miami beach home kind of color, turquoise in its many shades is being embraced by designers. Paired with chocolate brown or taupe, the combination lends warmth to the room. ”It’s a nod to the Caribbean,” Sindlinger says.

    * Shells. These beach souvenirs are the rage — from shell chandeliers and shell-encrusted claw-foot bathtubs to Christmas trees adorned with shell garlands. ”Shell decor is sumptuous, outrageous, and it has exotic allure,” Marshall says. [USA Today]

We do all of that to varying degrees: we make sculptures from sea glass, shells, driftwood; have Hawaiian art scattered about; no oars though.

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About Eric Olsen