Lynne Sheard has a big family. And the Sheard family does Christmas in a big way.
So big, that friends have convinced Lynne to open up her home today (Saturday) to show the community the 97 Christmas trees, more than 10,000 Christmas lights, 20 advent calendars, 80 or more Christmas CDs, and more than 10,000 decorations that fill the living room, kitchen, bathroom, staircase, bedroom and even the pantry of her Queen Street home in Elmira.
Sheard did not always want to have a home filled with Christmas decorations, it just sort of … happened, she says. Each of the seven children in her blended family—now grown up with children of their own—received gifts from Santa Claus when they were younger. Each of the children and both parents gave gifts to every other member of their family, and even before presents for friends of the family were factored in, they already had 91 wrapped bundles under the family’s tree. Her solution?
“Well we just had to get another tree.”
Not just one more tree, but another tree for each member of the family so that they could keep track of the presents they were going to give out on Christmas day, bringing the total to nine trees at that point. And from there it continued to grow: Sheard began to receive Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes as gifts, and if she saw a tree going to waste somewhere, she would salvage it.
Included in the long list of trees in the Sheard home is a nutcracker-themed tree, a cardinal tree, an Anne Geddes tree, a porcelain doll tree, a musical tree, a Santa Claus tree, a tree that sings and dances and perhaps one of Sheard’s personal favourites, the motorcycle tree.
Sheard’s children, their spouses and her 14 grandchildren – 27 people in total – come together every Christmas Eve and sit down for a big Christmas meal, each with his or her own complete Christmas place-setting of course. Although she says the visitors seem to be amazed at the increasing amount of decorations that fill the home, they have not quite carried on the tradition to the same extent in their own homes.
“I have a daughter whose husband said, ‘We are only having one Christmas tree in our house,’” said Sheard with a laugh. “Well I bought her daughter a princess tree for Christmas one year, and then of course I had to buy the Hot Wheels tree for her son and a singing one because he loves it. They have four trees now.”
In addition to spending her time preparing for the major holidays (she also does an extensive amount of decorating at Halloween), Sheard offers child-care from her home, and she says that one of the main reasons she goes all out during the festive season is for the kids she takes care of.
“The kids love it. They come in here and are just stunned. They like to go around the house and spot the new things I have added or their favourite ornaments.” In the daycare room stands a tall poinsettia tree with durable ornaments so there is no worry about anything breaking.
It’s very festive, but are there any setbacks to having a house full of trees?
For starters, there are the allergies. Several of Sheard’s family members are allergic to real trees so all 97 of the trees in her home are artificial.
Then, there’s the energy bill.
“It started to cost a lot to have all of the lights running.” So now 43 Queen St. has gone green (and red), as Sheard has converted all of the lights to the LED type to save power.
“We don’t even need to turn nightlights on at night: we just leave some of the trees on to light the halls.”
And then, there are complications Sheard would never have expected.
“A few years ago I pinched a nerve when I was standing in the kitchen, but when the ambulance arrived they said ‘There is no way we can get a stretcher into this house.’”
But Sheard wouldn’t change a thing. She has grown to love the Christmas-themed toilet paper, the wreaths which hang in every window of her home, the more than 1,000 Santa Claus decorations, the festively themed electrical plug covers, and the clocks which all sing Christmas carols on the hour.
In 1974, Sheard left home and got her first very own Christmas tree, a small, sturdy tree that now stands proudly in her kitchen – but before that point, Sheard went about getting her tree in the “old fashioned way.”
“We used to go out in the brush and drag a tree home on the toboggan. Just one. Once it dried we would decorate it with popcorn and our homemade ornaments.”
Now she has inherited the ornaments from family members who have passed away, and receives ornaments from a host of different people including her daycare children, grandchildren and friends – she has no idea when it will stop.
“I told my husband that I suppose we could stop when we got 100 trees, but if I wanted to stop now how would I decide which ornaments to keep and which to throw away?”
Sheard says that if she only kept the ornaments which were absolutely necessary – heirlooms, homemade gifts, or ornaments with a special meaning to her – she would still have more than 300 decorations, far too many for just one tree.