Gabby Carlson | Echo
Before December rolls around the corner, Joanne Taylor starts bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic. Each box brims with decor and is labeled for the room with which the contents will reside in for the next five weeks. Two days are spent unpacking and setting up each room, many of which contain themes such as Santas, reindeer, the Nativity, angels and Christmas decor from around the world.
Five trees stand too tall to reach the top with lights outdoors. Husband of 51 years, Ken Taylor, director of retention, assists Joanne with this project. With a stick in hand, they move the lights until they are perfectly set outside. However, these trees do not hold a candle to the 14-foot tall tree in the main living room of their home.
The main Christmas tree is ordained with lights, sentimental ornaments and an angel on top. Some of these ornaments have been passed down for generations in the family, and some they simply acquire a new one in the collection every year.
An example of this would be the White House ornaments available for purchase each year that hang from the tall branches. Joanne believes they have around thirty years worth of these ornaments.
"Joanne's mother used to buy her one every year," Ken said. "And since she passed away in 2002, I make it a tradition to make sure to buy her one with a little note that says, 'You are special,' or 'You are loved.'"
The Taylor family is all about tradition. They believe tradition gives connection, and tradition speaks love, because things feel the same. However, they aren't opposed to new tradition either.
Tradition is tied into their decorations as well. There is a nativity set Joanne's mother made in the living room, to compliment the nativity theme. There is a Santa above the fridge made by Ken's father, and many other decorations originate from family members' homemade gifts.
A German tradition the Taylors practice is hiding a 6-inch pickle ornament in their tree, and having their grandchildren search for it. According to Joanne, it only took her granddaughter 31 seconds this year.
Before Christmas day, Joanne bakes holiday rolls, that originated with her grandmother, for 19 friends and neighbors.
"I try to time them right, because some of the neighbors like to save their rolls for Christmas Day with their families, so I usually make those the weekend right before Christmas," Joanne said.
The two weekends prior to Christmas, she bakes and packages the rolls, while Ken delivers them to all of their neighbors.
After all of the baking and decorating, Christmas season is structured a little differently with the Taylors. Most people worldwide would consider Dec. 25 as Christmas Day. However, the Taylors are not most people.
"We wanted our kids to be able to spend Dec. 25 with their families, so for us, Christmas Eve is Dec. 26 and Christmas Day is Dec. 27," Joanne said.
Christmas is held at their daughter's in Warsaw where Joanne prepares a feast and ordains the table with ornate Christmas decor.
All of the grandchildren sleep under the tree with her after watching silent, black and white Christmas films from Joanne's childhood. Then on Dec. 27, when the house is asleep, Ken and Joanne wake up early to set each person's presents under the tree.
"We are steeped in tradition," Joanne said.
A traditional breakfast of monkey bread in the shape of a Christmas tree and egg casserole awaits the family when they awake.
Each year, new items enter the Christmas collection, but the tradition and sentimental pieces continue. The Taylors may have the most extensive Christmas collection, but according to Joanne, they decorate for every holiday.
"Growing up, we celebrated every holiday," Joanne said. "We would have people for St. Patrick's Day, and we weren't even Irish."
Pumpkins and scarecrows bring in the fall, red, white and blue decor is up for the Memorial Day and Fourth of July season and their front trees keep their red and green lights all year long - the red turned back on for Valentine's Day, and the green for St. Patrick's Day.
Joanne's favorite part of decorating is sitting by the fire and seeing its completion.
"Tradition brings sweet memories with family," Joanne said. "And it's special to bring back special people who loved me and that reflects what Christ did for us."