Walking into the home of Cliff and Gayle Benedictson one might think they made a stop at the North Pole as the entire house is decorated top to bottom with Christmas cheer.
Gayle said she easily spends 80 hours a year decorating their home for the holidays and the decorating is complete by the first weekend in December.
Each room is a different theme whether it be elves, moose and deer, angels, snowmen, nutcrackers, nativity scenes, carolers and of course Santa.
Garland hangs from the railings, Christmas pictures adorn the walls, figurines are proudly displayed and even each light switch cover is carefully wrapped in seasonal paper – in the particular room’s theme, of course.
The couple has lived in Lacombe for more than 12 years and Gayle said she’s been elaborately decorating her home since about 1984.
“It gives me a feeling of joy that I can bring joy to other people’s lives. To see the look on people’s faces when they walk in the door is exciting. And even people who have been here before, it’s like it’s the first time they’ve come in.”
Although Gayle has a house full of Christmas décor, she still continues to collect new pieces for her displays.
“I’m very picky about what I buy now because I have so much and I do look very carefully about what I buy,” she said. “I did get rid of some items for the first time this year though.”
Cliff and Gayle purchase new items to add to their Christmas décor mainly when they travel. “I have nativity scenes from around the world, I have a Santa from China and from Germany.”
Cliff finds a tree every year and cuts it down and also is in charge of setting up the decorations in the yard. “I like a floor to ceiling tree so it has to be 12 feet tall,” said Gayle.
Gayle and Cliff’s family, neighbours, friends and friends of friends come through to see the house each year. “We usually have between 95 and 105 people sign the guest book each season. I would say we had more visits than that because each person only signs the guest book once and some come for multiple visits.”
She added one of her favourite things is seeing everyone’s reactions as they come into her home.
“The biggest reaction we’ve had from anybody was a 13-year-old boy. He was just enthralled and it was like he wanted to go and look at every single item. After two hours his mother was ready to go and he didn’t want to leave,” said Gayle.
Each year, the house is decorated until after Jan. 7th when Gayle also does her spring-cleaning at the same time she is putting Christmas décor away.
“It takes me longer to put it all away than it does to put it out because I clean the house as I’m doing it,” said Gayle. “Basically the whole month of January no one is invited in the door because it’s a mess.”
Ultimately, Christmas is Gayle’s favourite time of year and she enjoys sharing her love for the season with others.
“I have always loved it. I love the fact that it brings people together. I have a plaque that says if we lived Christmas every day there would be peace around the world and I really feel that way.”