Stop by the Williams home on Spirit Lake during Christmas and there will likely be the sound of music emanating from within. Specifically Christmas music as family gathers around a piano at the top of the stairs.

Donna Williams plays organ and piano at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spirit Lake and brings her musical ear home for the holidays to play and sing Christmas Carols with her husband, Mike, their children and grandchildren.

In addition to the Christmas carols, a few things change throughout the Williams home for the holidays. A desk usually filled with photos is now full of Christmas decorations. Reindeer, decorative trees and ornaments fill every available space.

Williams picked up the decorating bug from her parents.

“The tradition of decorating big each year was passed down from my parents,” Donna said. “Of all siblings I’ve been the craziest about decorating a lot for Christmas.”

Decorating begins at least a few weeks before Christmas when Donna begins bringing out specifically marked tubs full of decorations. The tubs are organized by room or for specific items of furniture, some of which belonged to Donna’s grandparents.

Donna sets up all the arrangements herself and switches things up a bit each year. The colors and style changes some each year. Last year was dominated with reds and golds. The Williams also used to have a nine-foot tree, though that has been switched out for a smaller version with 700 lights.

The tree anchors a corner of the main room next to the fireplace right next to windows that offer a great view of the lake.

“There’s a warmth in here and I love the mornings,” Donna said. “I’ll light up the tree, have some coffee and enjoy a moment to start the day.”

In December, many of the days are occupied by decorating the home for the holiday.

“I take pride in the work and it takes at least two weeks to get set up, though Mike would say it seems like a month or two,” Donna said with a laugh. “It’s certainly more fun putting up the decorations than taking them down. That’s for sure.”

While some decorations change others stay the same.

Five years ago the office was converted to a formal dining room and a specific dining set comes out for Christmas. The nativity set in the dining room has been out in one place or another for 15 years in a row.

A particularly interesting piece in the living room is a life-size model of St. Nicholas that Donna received from a friend who knew of her love for Christmas decorating.

“The grandkids just love it,” Donna said. “And it’s fun to see the kids and grandkids enjoy the other ornaments.”

The grandchildren also love the basement and for good reason.

“Downstairs is where the action is,” Donna said. “We open presents down there.”

The bedrooms see a little less of the Christmas decoration action though the master bedroom Donna adorns in a more woodsy or wintery style.

When it’s all said and done it’s about family and spreading that good old Christmas cheer.

“There is a certain satisfaction when the decorating is all done,” Donna said.

“I want our family and friends to feel the brightness and beauty of the season.” 

From the 2015 edition of Okoboji Magazine.