Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

There's no such thing as too many Christmas trees

There's no such thing as too many Christmas trees

There’s no such thing as too many Christmas trees

Do not attempt to persuade George Mann that there’s any reason to limit his enjoyment of Christmas ornaments. Or Christmas trees. Bah, humbug, he will say.

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He’s a life-long collector and fortunately, his wife Sheila is, at the very least, an enabler. Their Fort Smith home sparkles with light that reflects upon hundreds (who’s counting) of beautiful ornaments on six (we counted) Christmas trees.

George knows his fascination with Christmas trees and ornaments started before he was 7 years old. “I can remember I was sad when Mom would take it down,” he said. “When I was 10 or 11, I got extremely dissatisfied with Dad’s tree. I fired my parents and took over.” 

They may as well have surrendered. George  “cannot bear” one light out. He was willing to take his allowance to the Ben Franklin variety store to buy lights and decorations, he said.

When he grew up, he turned pro.

In the mid-’90s. while working Dillard’s, he was asked to decorate the store’s display trees several years in a row. Expert vendors showed him insiders’ tips for lights, ribbon and garland.

“Instead of turning me off it made me worse,” he said.

He lets others tease him that his Christmas ornament count is out of control. But what the Manns have decorating their trees is also a collection of memories. When the two music educators met and married, they acquired a 1979 “Our First Christmas” Hummel ornament. Now, they have 38 of the year-dated ornaments. Almost all of their baubles are symbolic of something special in their lives.

George is a choirmaster and organist at Goddard United Methodist Church and Sheila is a music teacher at private schools.

One large collection is of ornaments made for George by the casts of almost 30 productions at Fort Smith Little Theatre for which he was the musical director. 

When a collection of a certain kind of ornament “overwhelms” a tree, it gets its own tree, George explained. There’s a green and gold “Gone with the Wind” tree with Scarlett O’Hara figures in every costume. A Star Trek collection also rates its own tree with blue lights, star tinsel and lots of silver, Final Frontier fantasy. One tree is filled with cherub choirs, musical instruments and music motifs; another is for movies, theater and Hollywood characters.

As often as possible, they travel to Europe and especially to Germany and Austria, home of some of the biggest, most tempting Christmas marketplaces in the world. They carefully choose, buy and ship back a few ornaments; many made of hand-blown glass. The ornaments often portray the sights they’ve seen – the Krakow dragon or a Kaethe Wohlfahrt delivery coach, depicting the Christmas stores of the same name that are open 365 days a year. On their last trip, they also chose hand-blown figures of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his wife, Constanze.

Pro tips: George circles the tree as he puts on the ornaments. Don’t stand in one place.

“You can’t do this kind of decorating with a real tree,” he warns. Let ornaments dangle. Use different sizes of lights on the same tree.

Not everyone has this team advantage: Sheila takes down the trees, dusts every ornament and packs them away carefully. “Next year, they’re so organized,” George said in appreciation. They leave a large Christmas village up year-round.

Most importantly, be like George. If you love Christmas, there can never be too many trees.

This article appears in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith magazine.

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online