The exterior of the tidy house on East Sinto doesn’t even begin to hint at what can be found inside. Only a simple small wooden Christmas tree decorated with lights sits on the porch. A large wreath hangs on the door.
Inside the house is a different story. There’s a large artificial Christmas tree in the living room, of course, but there’s also one on the television, the dryer, the kitchen counter, a few on the dining room table and in the bedrooms - more than 30 trees in all.
And then there are three display cases filled with Christmas figurines ranging from an inch-high mouse to a wise man that stands about 18 inches tall. On the walls are 17 wreaths. A collection of Santas is clustered in front of the television, and Christmas afghans are draped across the living room furniture. Oh, and did we mention the life-size lighted reindeer in the corner?
Vivian Ingraham, 63, owner of the decked out house, says she’s been collecting Christmas decorations for about 20 years. “It just kind of evolved over the years,” says Ingraham. “I think it puts everybody in a Christmasy mood.”
There’s a reason that she doesn’t decorate the outside of her house, says Ingraham. “By the time I finished here, I was too worn out,” she says, laughing.
She also prefers to enjoy the fruits of her labor in private, though she shares it with occasional dinner guests.
Over the years she’s amassed about 70 boxes full of Christmas decorations, which she stores in her basement and what used to be her son’s room. She rotates the decorations every year, because even though every available surface is covered with some kind of decoration, there still isn’t room for them all. She also selects which decorations to use based on what mood she wants to set.
The job takes Ingraham about two weeks, with her two grown children pitching in. Her son and daughter, both single and in their early 40s, decorate their own houses as well. “I guess it runs in the family,” says Ingraham.
She saves time by storing her trees with all the decorations still on them and covers them with special bags for trees to keep them looking like new.
She typically has her decorations up by Thanksgiving and takes them down at the start of the New Year. All of her pictures come off the wall and some furniture gets moved upstairs to make room for more decorations.
Even though her house is bursting with hundreds of Christmas decorations, Ingraham buys more every year. She generally hits the after-Christmas sales and gets things at 50 to 70 percent off. She picked up the lighted reindeer, which go for about $600 a pair, for half off. She doesn’t blink at spending several hundred dollars for a Santa that stands 2 to 3 feet tall and buys a new one every year.
Ingraham says she insures all her items, which she estimates are worth more than $40,000. “The collectibles are where the money is,” she says, although she admits that Christmas collectibles are a bad investment, since she can only enjoy them once a year.
Ingraham enjoys her annual task. “I look forward to the challenge of decorating and seeing what I can do,” says Ingraham. “I’m already getting ideas about what I’m going to do for next year.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 color photos