By Jeanette W. Bennett
Charlotte Calay knows there are other homes in the valley with more Christmas decorations than she has, but she decorates her restored Victorian home in downtown Provo with “all the house will hold.”
An admitted obsessive, she begins putting up her Christmas decorations the day after Halloween.
“It takes me a month to put it all up and about two weeks to take it down,” she says. Her children help her bring boxes in from her storage spaces in her garage and attic.
“I started doing Christmas decorations to give my grandchildren something special to remember,” she says.
The Calay’s Victorian home becomes a Christmas wonderland shortly after Halloween. Youth groups and church groups often ask to tour their Provo home during the holidays. Her bright lights add $20 a month to her utility bills, but she says that is a small price to pay for giving others happy memories.
Charlotte’s own childhood was not full of traditions and happy memories, and she wants her posterity to have happy remembrances of Grandma’s holiday home.
She has a theme for her Christmas gifts for her grandchildren. In 2001, she made all of her posterity aphgans. In 2002, she made them pajamas. Her bright holidays increase her utility bill by $20 a month, but the small price to pay is worth it.
The Calays bought the small Victorian home in downtown Provo about 12 years ago.
“I fell in love with the home because it had good bones — I loved the molding and the pocket doors,” she says. “We mostly needed to do cosmetic fixes.”
The Calay’s home is always a work in progress as Charlotte creates and recreates each room and wall grouping. She knows what she is looking for and keeps an eye out for the items she has in mind. Charlotte’s solution to Christmas decorating or any other problem in life is to sleep on it.
“If I go to bed thinking about a particular situation, I dream of solutions,” she says. “When I wake up, I know what I should do.”
Charlotte has also used her decorating abilities commercially. She was hired to bring the holiday season to the Franklin Covey buildings in the Riverwoods. On a budget of $4,000, she turned Riverwoods I and Riverwoods II into a Christmas paradise — she did one building with a formal feel and one with a country twist.
The Calays’ kitchen is lit with white holiday lights. The trick for keeping it all clean? Bottled air. “I clean one room a month, and that takes me all year,“ Charlotte says.
The front living room showcases one of the 19 decorated trees the Calays display during the holidays.
Charlotte adds to her Christmas village each year.
“Each year I say I’m going to cut back, but then I keep wanting to include more and more stuff,” Charlotte Calay says.
The Calays feature photos of their 14 grandchildren on one tree. Her grandchildren range from 3 to 24. The three great-grandchildren have photos hanging on the banister heading to the second story.
“Most of my traditions come from what I wanted,” Charlotte says. “I do all of this for my grandchildren. When they think of me, I want it to be a special memory.”
The modest Victorian home in downtown Provo showcases 19 decorated trees and 50 smaller trees. The basement family room includes 12 Christmas trees.
“My grandkids say it’s too much, but they notice if something’s missing,” Charlotte says.
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” tree showcases, among other things, a partridge in a pear tree.