01 Jan Holiday Lights Tour

Our friend Scott, who collects antique Christmas ornaments, invited us to the annual Christmas Lights Tour. We’d heard about it for years. It’s a private tour for collectors of antique holiday ornaments. The collectors take a day to visit each other’s decorated houses. Oh my god, this is stunning stuff – hundred-year-old die-cut paper ornaments, tissue-thin glass ornaments of fruits and figures, clay-faced hand-painted Saint Nicks, lights topped with rotating paper shades, strings of glass beads the size of peppercorns. We’re talking serious collections, the likes of which you seldom see outside a museum.

Stand among the collectors and you’ll hear a lot of shop talk about 1) the state of online auctions (e.g., the market is flooded with ornaments that used to be difficult and expensive to obtain – which is good for new collectors but bad for the experts who are trying to unload their less desirable stuff); 2) war stories of hunting down rare items (e.g., recently Scott tracked down an early twentieth-century electric Santa tree topper at the house of a woman who lived with twenty-some dogs in rural Pennsylvania – Jill happened to be with him: she said she’d never been in a house so thick with animal hair. “It was like walking on mohair sweaters.”); 3) speculation about and lusting after the new acquisitions displayed by fellow collectors, like the table-top rotating tree that Ward was showing off — it was in such pristine condition, it looked new, though Ward insists it’s from the 1950s or earlier; none of the other collectors had seen one like it.

At the last house on the tour, George and Kathy, the hosts, crowded their dining room table with a buffet supper. Jill and I gawked and gaped at their place, which is a bit larger and more finely appointed than ours. They live on Eutaw Street, which has some of Baltimore’s finest row houses Originally, Eutaw was Baltimore’s elite Jewish neighborhood, home to many of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs in the late 1800s, department store owners especially. George and Kathy have been in the neighborhood for 30 years. Pioneers, we call them.

Jill is taking down our holiday ornaments today. I like getting the house back in order but don’t like seeing the end of the festivities, the house no longer dressed up like a prom queen. The regret some experience at the close of the holidays may explain why we see holiday lights still up at Easter. Some folks just can’t bring themselves to put an end to it. That and the fact that it’s not nearly as much fun taking down decorations as it is putting them up. Speaking of the house, our This Old House article is still up on the TOH website and we’re still getting online comments about it. Like this: “Congratulations on all your hard work and I’m glad the relationship survived …” Yeah, we are too. Stay tuned for a report about our new kitchen range. Oh, man. It’s turned us upside down because, as with all rehab decisions, one thing has led to another: electricity, brickwork, ventilation, whew.

May the new year bring you love and happiness.