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Behind the Scenes: Christmas at Glenn House

Christmas at the Glenn House has been a holiday favorite of mine for years.  I love seeing the different set of decorations every season and the incredible attention to detail throughout this Victorian home.  Curiosity of how they come up with all of these ideas year after year and how long it takes to decorate started to creep in, so the kind volunteers at the Glenn House generously let me poke around and get in their way on the decorating committee’s first work day for the holiday season.

I arrived at the Glenn House’s Carriage House on a drizzly Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. Coffee and snacks were already set out, and the decorating committee got right down to business.  Bonnie Chaudoir is the “Christmas Lady,” and she and the co-chairs of the decorating committee, Dwight Tanksley and Linda Ingram, do all the design and planning with the exception of the dining room, which is decorated by Knaup’s Floral.  Trees dressed with lights were already in place and labeled tubs of corresponding decorations and ornaments hauled over from off site storage  were waiting in each room.

“Home for the Holidays” is this year’s theme, and Bonnie mentioned that “it conjures up nice memories for everyone as they come through the house, reminding them of Christmas’ pasts.”  Christmas tours at the Glenn House were done as early as 1979 or 1980, right around when the house first opened up for tours, but holiday tours have been taking place in their current format for the past 10 years.  “The first year, we decorated the kitchen tree with silverware from the drawer!” Bonnie said with a smile.

I asked Bonnie where they get all of their ideas – every year the decorations are entirely shaken up and new.  “We go through lots of magazines and pull out pictures,” Bonnie said, “deciding on themes as we go, what to do in each room.  We spend one whole day in the Carriage House just planning designs.”

Bonnie and the decorating committee went over some decorating basics with the group that had me making mental notes for my tree at home, such as starting with the garland and working your way from the inside out to make the tree look fuller.  “It’s such a good feeling to work on this.  If you’re not in the Christmas mood right now, you will be by the time we get this big Victoria lady dressed for the holiday!” Bonnie remarked as crews set off to trim trees throughout the house.

Just how much time does it take to get this big Victorian lady dressed in full festive wear?  It takes a revolving group of about 12 volunteers eight scheduled work days, and that doesn’t include the hours of planning, designing, shopping and hunting down of supplies Bonnie, Dwight and Linda put in on the decorating committee.  In addition, the event itself must be staffed; Christmas at the Glenn House runs every Saturday and Sunday in December from 1-4 p.m., with the additional dates of November 28-30 over Thanksgiving weekend.  The house itself is staffed with docents, and the Carriage House has hosts or hostesses who oversee the refreshments.  Candlelight tours are also scheduled for December 12 and 20.  It all has to be put away, too – three take down dates are scheduled for January with another day set aside for cleaning – but it’s not all work and no play for the volunteers.  Every year, they extend the fun and fellowship with a festive trip, and this year the group is headed to Sainte Genevieve’s Cookie Crumb Trail!

Christmas at the Glenn House is a huge (HUGE!) amount of time and energy, but it’s obvious from everyone involved that it is a genuine labor of love that they are so happy to be a part of.  I was in awe of the amazing volunteers and how organized everything was. Many, many thanks to the gracious volunteers at the Glenn House for allowing me to get in your way and ask questions about this lovely holiday tradition.  Don’t hesitate to plan your trip and start a new holiday tradition of your own!

Christmas at the Glenn House takes place November 28, 29 and 30 and every Saturday and Sunday in December from 1 – 4 p.m.
Candlelight tours are scheduled for December 12 and December 20 from 5 – 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under.


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