Visitors are never prepared for what the phrase “the house is decorated for Christmas” means in the Benedictson house.
Gayle and Cliff Benedictson have been lavishly decorating their home, every room of it, for the last 29 years.
Gayle, who does the majority of the decorating inside the home, said her love of Christmas and entertaining led to her “decking the halls” so completely every year.
“I love opening the door and people walk in and they just go, ‘Wow’,” said Gayle.
Throughout the home, there are literally thousands of Christmas decorations covering every room top to bottom. Each room in the Benedictson home is decked out in a different Christmassy theme.
Upon entering the home, one stands in the living room which is full of snowmen. Downstairs in the den is the Santa Claus room. The guestroom is decorated with dozens of elves, the dining room has nativity scenes and the kitchen has a few gingerbread men and other miscellaneous decorations.
Even the bathrooms are decorated, the basement bathroom is the nutcracker room and in the upstairs bathroom the shower curtain depicts a foamy Santa having a shower.
One of Gayle’s favourite areas of the house is the corner containing her collection of figurines depicting Santa Claus with the Christ child.
She said she likes these pieces because, while they are not unheard of, they are not very common decorations to see either.
In each room of the house there is also at least one Christmas tree and one nativity scene. There are few available surfaces that are not covered in some kind of decoration.
Gayle said that even the light switch panels and tissue boxes are gift wrapped and the toilet seats are changed out for holiday ones for the Christmas season.
Every year Gayle starts decorating in November to have the house completely transformed by the beginning of December. This year she started on Nov. 17 and was finshed by Nov. 28.
It takes Gayle 80 hours to decorate the whole house. She usually begins with the living room and gets the high decorations she needs the ladder for out of the way first.
For the most part, Gayle decorates her house the same way every Christmas. She said that she might move a few decorations around, but the themes of each room remain the same as do the bulk of the displays.
She added that she began mentally placing decorations the first time she saw the new home in 2000 so she has had the image of how the decorations look in her head for a very long time.
Cliff is responsible for the outdoor decorating and for getting the tree each year.
He cuts down the tree himself from a friend’s property, usually when he goes hunting. The high ceiling in the living room warrants a 12-ft. tree, which is what the Benedictsons shoot for every year.
While the home is not open to all for tours, it is not unusual for the Benedictsons to have 100 people come through their home during the Christmas season.
Gayle said most of their visitors are family, friends and friends of friends. She added that during this time of year, there is seldom a night when she and Cliff are home alone.
Guests are shown through the home by Gayle and after seeing all the marvelous Christmas-themed rooms, they are invited to sign the guestbook and take home a small Christmas ornament made by Gayle herself.
Gayle does her cleaning while she takes down the Christmas displays, which doesn’t start until Jan. 7. As she cleans and packs away decorations, Gayle also disposes of a few decorations that aren’t being used each year.
The year 1984 was the first Gayle began decorating her home so extensively, but she said the bulk of the decorating spiked when she and Cliff moved to Lacombe. Nowadays, her decorating and collecting has kind of reached a plateau, but she still keeps an eye open for “Cute and unique” pieces to add to the display.