BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Gayle Benedictson loves Christmas and is not afraid to show it.
For decades she has decorated her home, each room with a different theme. Benedictson has to sort through nearly 30 boxes and work for approximately 80 hours to achieve her winter wonderland.
“I just love this time of the year. It’s got so much meaning to it. It’s about love and peace and joy, and I love seeing that in people. It’s also about hope. It’s a season full of hope for everybody,” Benedictson said simply.
“It’s a lot of work and effort to do the whole house but I enjoy it because I know it brings joy to people who get to see it.”
Each room in the Benedictson household is carefully stripped of its everyday furnishings and replaced with a Christmas theme. From her kitchen to her bathrooms or to the basement, every room is filled with years of collections, carefully placed and arranged for display during Benedictson’s favourite holiday.
The sections are built slowly and meticulously, piece by piece.
Benedictson says she gets some help from her husband, Cliff, but that mostly she picks through the boxes herself to arrange for Christmas.
From Santas to elves, reindeer and angels, Gayle has it covered. She said many of the ornaments or decor pieces have been given to her as gifts, and she has made a number herself.
“I enjoy the decorating because I know people come through and enjoy their time touring through the house. We have our friends and family, but people we know will bring their friends and family and everyone who goes through the house finds it a very uplifting Christmas experience,” Gayle said.
“That makes the decorating that much more exciting for me and less work.”
She added she does not do community viewings, as she already sees over 150 guests each year with friends and families.
Her Christmas cheer isn’t limited to her home, either.
When she’s out in public, Gayle often can be spotted with a fun hat, some jingle bell bracelets and a wide smile.
“I always have my funny Christmas hat while I’m out and people always tell me they love it, and smile at me. I never get a grumpy clerk or anything and I love that,” she said with a laugh.
Gayle has a few special sections in the home that carry an extra bit of personal meaning to her. The first is her collection of Santas with the Christ child.
“I have a space in my dining room where all of the figurines feature Santa Claus, usually kneeling at the stable manger or holding the Christ child. This space is so nice because it ties two Christmas themes together. Christmas is much more than Santa Claus and gifts, so that section reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas.”
She keeps a small storybook in this section as well that has often been picked up and read for children who come through the home.
Gayle’s other favourite space is her bedroom – the Angel room.
“I firmly believe in angels and love them dearly so to be surrounded by them is a very peaceful, wonderful feeling for me,” she said.
From floor to ceiling, Gayle has a collection of angel sculptures, photos, dolls and even bedding to make her space special. She says her husband doesn’t mind the decor and it makes them both feel calm and peaceful.
Calm and peaceful are two words Gayle wishes for people to associate with the holiday, as well as joy.
She says these themes are important to recognize and she’s happy to give people a piece of her Christmas spirit when they tour through her home.
Each guest is asked to sign a book and take an angel ornament on their way out of the house, homemade by a friend. She says this is one extra way she can give a piece of what makes her so happy and share that with other people.
From the start of the tour to the finish, Gayle simply hopes people take away a happy experience and allow themselves to be lost in the winter wonderland that means so much to her.
“I’m thankful to have a great life. There’s nothing I’d want to change about it, so I hope that other people are able to find what they’re looking for in life. I hope people have a wonderful Christmas and are able to find what they are looking for during the holiday season,” she said.
“I also want people to have peace in their lives. There are a lot of people out there looking for peace in their lives and working hard for it. I’m not talking necessarily about world peace, but just an inner peace for people. If they can start there, it tends to go out into the world around them.”
Gayle’s collection will continue to delight friends, family and any other lucky guests who take a peak inside the Benedictson household. She wishes the community a Merry Christmas, and hopes that people continue to spread good tidings through the rest of the year.