The holiday season ushers in a dizzying array of sights, sounds and feelings.
For some, smell of sugar cookies baking brings them back to Grandma’s house. Others can’t wait to trim the tree, hot cider in hand. Travelers take to the roads, eager to spend the time with loved ones they might not see otherwise.
As the season kicks off and everyone begins Christmas preparations, some Ankeny residents are ushering it in by doing their best to trim the tree and deck the halls with festive decorations. Others are repeating cherished traditions that have been celebrated for years. Read on to see how they do their best to spruce things up for the holidays.
Sometimes one of the most fun ways to celebrate Christmas is visually, and these Ankeny residents are doing their best to trim the tree and make their homes special this season. Barb Valline hosts her neighborhood’s homeowner association’s Christmas party, and her place is always decked out.
“She has fantastic over-the-top decorations,” says Dolores Van Oort. “She lives next to me. Have you ever seen her home at Christmas time? It’s beyond belief. She clears all walls, counters, shelves and puts up all Christmas decorations. She has a collection of hundreds of Santas. It’s amazing.”
Valline says she’s been decorating for years, and she just likes going over-the-top at Christmastime. They live in a townhome now, so her decorating is on a smaller scale, but that doesn’t stop her from doing things like replacing every picture in the house with a Christmas-themed replacement.
“I go a little crazy,” she says. “My decorations are mostly divided up into nativity sets and Santa Clauses. I love Santa Clauses, and I collect those. The front room is snowmen for the grandkids. It’s a lot of fun.”
Another decorator is Hollie Weatherwax. Her home on the southwest side is full of artistic decorations — whatever catches her eye. She describes her style as French or traditional with a flair.
“I’ve decorated sporadically as I’ve raised my kids,” she says. “I love to do it. I’m always switching my house up, and I decorate for fall and Christmas. My main level is really decorated, and I have a couple trees up and it’s very traditional.”
Weatherwax says her love for decorating came from her mother, who also made sure their home showed the Christmas spirit. She grew up with that same love of Christmas décor.
“I like to be creative,” she says. “I also enjoy it, not only to do it, but to live in it. I love to see it every day. I love to sit and have a glass of wine at night and lights the candles and just enjoy it.”
For other Ankeny residents, Christmas is best shared with family and friends, getting together each year to celebrate special traditions. No matter how small, special moments are what make the season bright.
“I have a good memory of making lefse every year with the ladies in my family. Making lefse is kind of a big deal with our family! It’s basically like a tortilla shell, and it’s made out of potatoes and flour and water. It’s not sweet but then our family puts butter and brown sugar on it. My mom is one of 11 children, and she and my aunt and my family started making it with my grandma as kids, then when I got old enough to help out, I got to do it, too. It’s very time-consuming, so it was really only a once-a-year thing. You’d have to peel the potatoes and let them sit out, and when they made it, they peeled 50 pounds of potatoes. My aunt was in charge, and she was very exact. You couldn’t have too much flour on it, and it had to roll out perfect. I remember rolling on the rolling pin like it was my job. We’d have it on Christmas, and then people would take some home, too.”
— Terra Barlow
“We do the ornament thing. My grandma gave each of her grandkids Hallmark ornaments since birth, and we have continued the tradition for our kids. In fact, I’m still buying the Hallmark ornament series that my grandma started for me since she’s passed away now. My grandma started me on dogs, so I have like 22 or 23 dogs, and I can’t keep myself from stopping! I have to buy them every year. I have gotten our kids baby’s first Christmas, and then they get another new one each year. My mom (who is also in Ankeny) continues to buy the Hallmark series that my grandma was buying for herself, too.”
— Liz Overton
“Each year my kids will get three new Hallmark ornaments to add to their boxes. It’s so much fun to look through every year and see all their ornaments. My kids also get a book a day Advent calendar. I have done Christmas theme in the past, but this year will just be a random assortment of books. My family also does a lot of very specific Christmas traditions. Christmas Eve is a very fancy dinner with oyster stew and then a lot of veggie, fruit, meat and cheese trays. We drink wine, listen to Christmas music, eat, talk about the year and enjoy the company. No opening packages on Christmas Eve! Then in the morning we wake up to monkey bread and cinnamon rolls and then break into the packages! We typically go to a movie in the afternoon and then come home to prime rib and playing with whatever you got for Christmas. Is that enough traditions for one family?”
— Christi McKeag
“We make a happy birthday Jesus cake every year and even blow out the candles for fun. This is something my mom did with us, and my grandma did it with her kids. It is not a Pinterest worthy cake, but it’s perfect because my kids decorate it.”
— Stephanie Beyer Henzi
“We just started ours last year with our daughter, but our Christmas tradition is adopting a family and buying them gifts for Christmas to share the spirit of Christmas. We also go a little nuts with baking and have a pretty decent Christmas light set up!”
— Megan Flynn