I don’t know about you, but my holiday season always feels like it can’t officially start until we put up the Christmas tree.
It usually takes an afternoon to go to the tree farm, pick out the perfect tree, cut it down and haul it home. Then usually on another night we decorate the tree while we listen to some Christmas music.
But for Marilyn Schultz, trimming the tree takes a lot more than just one evening of work.
It’s because Marilyn’s home on East Lake Okoboji doesn’t feature one Christmas tree or even just two. Last year, she had 21 trees. She has at least one tree in every room of the house and the main living space has three large trees.
It all began in 1973.
Marilyn was working at a gift shop and that was the first year that Hallmark started coming out with Christmas ornaments.
“Initially, that was how I got hooked on them. I got to see all of the ornaments that were coming out every year and I always picked out my favorites,” Marilyn said.
That first year she bought only three ornaments that were made out of yarn. Her first Hallmark ornaments were a little girl and Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The number of ornaments she buys every year has grown and on average, Marilyn says she buys about 60-70 Hallmark ornaments each year. Her collection has grown to the point where she doesn’t know just how many ornaments she has.
“I started out only buying 3-4 a year and then it grew to 6-7 and then it took off.
“It progressed as the ornaments took off with Hallmark. They made more and started introducing series of ornaments,” Marilyn said. “They slowly hooked me.”
Some of her most cherished ornaments aren’t ones that she bought though. Her very first ornaments were presents and they are what sparked her love of Christmas and holiday decor.
“I loved the magic, the sparkle, twinkling lights. I’ve just always loved Christmas decorations,” Marilyn said.
When you walk into Marilyn’s home, which she shares with her husband, Keith Diekevers, you are in no doubt of the season. Christmas is everywhere and it’s beautiful.
Each tree in the home has a specific theme and all of the ornaments work with that theme. For example, the tree in her husband’s office, has anything and everything to do with cars. There are ornaments made to look like classic cars and the tree also features a Hallmark classic truck series.
She also tries to integrate everyday items as ornaments on her trees such as key chains and actual keys onto her car-themed tree.
She has trees for almost everything imaginable. She has a tree dedicated to ball ornaments, a wreath that features nativity scene ornaments, a Hershey-themed tree in her kitchen, and so much more. All in all, it takes her about one month to get all of the pre-lit Christmas trees decorated. She starts in October and her goal is to have all the trees completed by Thanksgiving. The largest tree in the living room takes her three days alone to get fully decked out.
The large tree in the living room was my personal favorite and Marilyn assured me that it is many of her other guest’s favorite tree as well. It features fun toy ornaments and ones from movies such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Some of the ornaments are battery-operated and play music, make noise and the like.
“It’s one of those trees that the more you look at it the more you’ll discover. There’s Mickey Mouses and Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em Robots. But one of my favorites is the viewfinder,” Marilyn said.
Marilyn has some trees that were created out of the interests of her two sons. She has a boat and fishing tree, a toy tree, a candy tree, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz, sports and Hot Wheels trees.
Her husband, Keith, loves it when the trees are trimmed and the ornaments sparkle in boughs of the lit trees.
“It’s beautiful and people just can’t believe when they come to visit. It’s truly amazing,” Keith said.
For Marilyn, all the time and effort of decorating every tree is worth it.
“It allows me to recapture the feelings and share them each year. Christmas is magical. I love snow. I love winter,” Marilyn said. “It’s just at Christmas that I really get into decorating. Christmas is a time of beauty, magic, spirit and caring. It’s a time when everybody comes together.”