Photography by Jordan Koepke
As the “olde” saying goes…Christmas comes but once a year. Though it does seem to come around a little faster as I’ve, shall we say, matured, it nevertheless flashes by at lightning speed, gone all too soon as anticipation gives way to memory. The quiet spirit of human warmth and kindness, the elevated sense of joy and revelry, the easy laughter and the natural, seasonal swell of gratitude and compassion are a spiritual balm, a soul-warming antidote to so many of the year’s other days.
Many of us feel it’s worth taking a little time and applying a bit of thoughtful effort to set the stage for Christ’s eponymous day…God’s perfect gift. The milieu of the holiday is a magical mix of shared traditions and personal recollections. Our senses swoon with the seasonal intermix of smells and textures, tastes and music…at the very sight of halls decked and ready for yet another hearty round of merrymaking.
We consider all of these senses every December as we decorate Elway Hall for another Yuletide season. Every fragrant bough clipped on our Fauquier County farm lends a sense of place. Each blown glass ornament recalls another time, another tree. Every twinkling light sparkles with the memory of loved ones old and young, here and gone, celebrating the sacred joy of Christmas.
Barry Dixon’s Christmas
The entrance of Elway is graced with a root balled tree which will be planted on the property after the holidays. “I keep it very very simple, I don’t use lights, even white lights, in the outdoor decorations. Its just pretty naturally, especially the evergreens which really show up in the winter; we just let them make their statement.”
The scene is adorned with bittersweet and holly, collected right on the property, and a woven wicker basket filled with oversize pinecones collected in Colorado. The wreath is constructed with fresh local greens sourced from the property or local farms and decorated with cloved oranges, pine cones, nuts, and fruits.
Uniquely, also featured are pumpkins grown on the property. “We have them out there for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it’s just a week or so later that we decorate for Christmas, so we like to leave them. If you look at a lot of the old illustrations of Christmas decorations in Europe there were a lot of pumpkins, and I kind of like carrying that over. I don’t like just the traditional reds and greens, I see orange as a shade of red, if you will, so it can take the place of a bright red. And maybe a chartreuse can take the place of a traditional Christmas green. So we use those with the traditional red and green just so we break up that formula, the monotony. By the time you put it all together you’re not relegated to what you’d think of as strictly Christmas colors.”
Christmas Trees at Elway
“I won’t buy a tree that’s been pruned or preshaped. I also don’t like trees that are so full there’s no room for ornaments. I buy the see-through, old world type of tree. There’s a type of douglas fir that looks like the old-fashioned trees that you’d see in Germany, real spindly, you can see through the branches, they’re sort of a Charlie Brown tree so the ornaments can hang down inside the tree instead of laying on top of the branches. I also put the lights all the way in to the trunk to create depth. I get my trees at Buckland Market, they’ll get some special trees they know we’ll like and put them aside for us every year.
Our formal tree (pictured on the following page) is in the music room, and that’s primarily hand-blown Bavarian glass ornaments, some are as old as the turn of the last century. A lot of them are Christopher Radko ornaments. He makes ornaments in the traditional way they were made historically.
Our less formal tree (pictured on the next spread, right) is in the family room, where we spend a lot of time. We use a lot of reds and oranges and yellows, to complement our furniture and draperies. The ornaments in here have a more homespun feel, handcrafted with materials like felt, crochet, wood, paper, metal, and wool. I’ve got ornaments that I made when I was a cub scout, little felt elves, rock candy ornaments, anything like that that I have from childhood…we really cherish those. Those things that have soulfulness and that heart connection to Christmases past are always kept and used on the family room tree.”