Celebrating holidays with a forest of trees

by Tim Froberg

Drive by Carmelyn Daley-Hinkens’ house in December and you’ll see a simple wreath hanging on the front door.

But once the door to the two-story north Appleton home swings open, Christmas Central unfolds and visitors can make their way through a festive wonderland of beautifully decorated Christmas trees. Daley-Hinkens refers to it as “Treepalooza.”

O Tannenbaum, does she have trees! It’s enough to get even the Grinchiest of souls into the Christmas spirit.

Daley-Hinkens loves Christmas and goes all out to celebrate it. Each year, she puts up around 18 trees – though she’s decorated as many as 22 during the holiday season. While most trees she has collected over the years are artificial, her home is far from needle free.

“Part of the deal at our house is that I can go crazy and put up as many artificial trees as I want as long as I save space for one real tree,” said Daley-Hinkens. “My husband and son insist on that.”

The artificial trees on display aren’t tiny tabletops. They range from 6 feet to 12 feet and can be found in every room of the house.

“It kind of goes with my personality, I guess,” she said. “To me, it’s that time of the year to have fun and be happy.”

Daley-Hinkens is a crafts enthusiast and she’s good at it, which enables her to take a creative approach to tree decorating. Most of her trees have themes. A huge “Star Wars” fan, she keeps a tree designed in the shape of Darth Vader up most of the year.

She has a Green Bay Packers tree and a Hello Kitty tree. Additional themed trees include Candyland, Frozen, Looney Tunes and Legos. She usually puts up a coastal tree as a salute to warm-weather getaways and another honoring her dog, Scarlett. She even has a Halloween tree that she puts up in October.

What do friends and neighbors think of her elaborate Christmas tree display?

“I don’t know – maybe some of them think I’m nuttier than a fruitcake,” said Daley-Hinkens with a laugh. “They’re very polite. Most people that drop by say they’re beautiful, but I’m my worst critic. I’m hard on myself.”

Although it takes time, effort, and energy to pull together her annual Christmas tree blowout, Daley-Hinkens finds great joy in the process and the end results. She usually starts her tree planning shortly after Labor Day but doesn’t see the work involved as labor. It’s her hobby.

“Oh, it’s not work,” she said. “It’s my version of play. It’s fun and it’s my creative outlet. If I get to a point where I just start sticking stuff on a tree, I’ll have to stop and give myself a break from this.”

Daley-Hinkens’ hobby started on a small scale.

“I was in college and put up my first Christmas tree in my second-floor apartment,” she said. “I’ll bet you I spent the whole day hauling that tree up and decorating it. That’s where it started, and it’s grown each year.”

Daley-Hinkens says her Christmas tree hobby isn’t expensive. She makes most of the ornaments and decorations herself but keeps an eye out for whatever she thinks will enhance the theme of a specific tree.

“I’m a huge bargain shopper,” she said. “Most of my ornaments aren’t very expensive. My husband bought me an expensive one once – I think it was crystal – but that’s about it.”

Daley-Hinkens, a communications/public relations manager in the Fox Cities, doesn’t plan on using her crafts skills and Christmas decorating experience for financial gain. That would take all the fun out of it.

“People have said to me, ‘Why don’t you turn this into a side hustle?’” she said. “Why don’t you try and get paid to do decorations for people because a lot of people really don’t like doing it? But it would be so much different if I did this as a job for someone else.

“When it’s my own tree, I can put ribbons or big bows on it, or whatever I like. If I was doing it for someone else, I’d be a lot more nervous about the whole thing and wondering if it was good enough.

“I’m just happy just doing the trees for myself.”