The Christmas spirit embodies generosity, kindness and goodwill, a fitting description to Linda Richards. I was asked to interview this exuberant, intriguing and entertaining lady here in Yankton last year. Arriving to her home after Christmas a colleague and I were warmly greeted by Linda at the door, taking our coats. She is the personification of a hostess, and warmly invites us into her home.

Now Linda loves Christmas, I mean she “really loves Christmas!” With over 100 Christmas trees in every shape, size, texture and color you could ever imagine fill her home. Linda would describe her passion as an addiction gone crazy, but I would say her collection is charming, whimsical, intriguing and priceless. She calls herself a “sucker” for Christmas trees, ornaments, decorations, everything Christmas, she just loves Christmas. I asked Linda where her love for Christmas comes from. She said, “When I was a child holidays were very minimal, basic, it was the time period. I didn’t start till after I was married. I started seeing so many beautiful trees and just started collecting them, from rummage sales, boutiques, anywhere I could find them.” Her favorite tree purchased from a rummage sale sits in the corner of her living room by her front window and it is the only tree that stays up year round. It is adorned with copper and bronze ornaments. Some are purchased and some handmade by craft vendors and a few old ornaments even found new life when Linda redecorated them to fit her themed tree. Her tallest tree sits in the center of her home and it is a seven foot tall tree, she calls the gold tree, as every decoration is in shades of gold, not one square inch of tree is left exposed on this divine creation. I just stood in awe trying to take in the beauty and detail of every ornament. I asked Linda how long it takes her to decorate every year. She tells me that she starts the day after Halloween. “All the Christmas trees are “fake”,

every year when my husband Ron was still alive we had a real tree, but I found after he passed how hard it was to put up a real tree by yourself, I got tired of asking friends to help me put it up and then to take it down, so I quit doing that.”


Linda, her husband Ron and their two daughters moved to Yankton over twenty-six years ago. Originally born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Ron was a homicide detective and when it came time to retire, she asked him where he wanted to go. His response was, “Somewhere I can hunt and fish, where there is no crime and no traffic!” Why South Dakota I asked? Linda replied, “My parents live in northeast Nebraska, we knew the area as we would come for visits and vacations to see them. We ultimately wanted to be at the lake, but we only had a week to move and there was nothing available at the time out there.”

As our tour continues, I ask Linda if each tree has a story and she stated simply, “Some do, some don’t!” “I travel to Europe once or twice a year and would bring back small unique Christmas trees and ornaments. The trees had to be small enough to be able to fit in my suitcase!” Every corner, table top, bookshelf, and ledge has tastefully been taken over. There is a carved Christmas tree made from Birchwood, a tree created with driftwood, a tree designed using pinecones, a tree made of bells. There are stick trees, metal trees, wire trees, aluminum and tinsel trees. There are the traditional evergreen trees in shades of white, silver, gold, and green. There are spun glass trees and many, many trees with a themed color and coordinating ornaments. Standing in front of the window to her back yard is the owl tree. In another corner the Santa tree, filled with a variety of Santa Claus decorations. “People sometimes don’t know what they got,” Linda said in describing a feather


tree she found at a rummage sale made from real feathers. I asked her how she kept track and could remember all the different trees and ornaments she has, especially when throughout the year she’s out shopping in search of the next tree or ornament or other Christmas decorations to add to her collection. And she simply says, “It’s easy, I’ve had so many of the trees and ornaments for so long and I don’t undecorate many of the smaller trees, I just put a bag to cover them and everything is stored in containers in a room upstairs.

Linda doesn’t go through all this work for nothing, she hosts a small group of friends every year to a party, with drinks, food and a contest to see who can guess the number of Christmas trees throughout the whole house. “It’s all about making memories,” she says. I was admiring a flat Christmas tree that hung on one of the walls in her dining room. Linda could remember where several of the ornaments came from. “This one is from Prague,” she says. A silver handmade beaded snowflake. She continues, “And this one from Berlin, this one Venice and this one I believe is from Malta.” In the dining room is one of her oldest trees, an aluminum tree decorated with ornaments that were originally her grandmothers, her mother in law and her mothers,

dating back to the 1940’s. The themed trees continue in her dining room with a cardinal tree, red cardinals and a splash of delicate gold bulbs sit on this small tree. A camping tree, a wine tree complete with miniature wine glasses and wine bottles. But the wine corks tucked throughout the branches are original corks from wine bottles and one of Linda’s favorite trees. In the


kitchen there is a themed tree complete with miniature kitchen utensils. A tree completely made of wine bottle corks sits on the kitchen counter, continuing the display for her love of wine as well.

Linda’s personality is delightful, charming and entertaining; she had me giggling with her sense of humor the entire time. Her personality is reflected in many of her trees. They are whimsical, priceless and kooky.

Our tour continues to the downstairs bathroom where there are four or five trees alone. A Victorian looking tree, which is all metal had jewelry strung over and around it with strings of pearl necklaces, clip on jeweled earrings and beaded broaches. Before I could ask, Linda states, “These are my mothers and grandmothers old jewelry.” I silently reflect that this is a priceless tree of memories for sure. In the entryway is a Mardi Gras themed tree with an explosion of colors, fuchsia,

teal, purple, and lime green glittered ornaments fill the branches and Peacock feathers are tucked further inside the branches. Linda tells me that she has a glittery Christmas tree in her bedroom as well. “I love glitter,” Linda says, “the biggest joke in our family is that when I die, my kids say that they’ll


sprinkle glitter all over me.” The last tree I admire in the entryway is an iron tree with tiny red and gold balls delicately hung and in the center is a lone, ornate, jeweled hummingbird.

We have finished our tour and interview and we say our farewells, thanking Linda for inviting us into her home for this story and in return, being the hostess that she is, Linda handed us both gift bags to thank us for coming.

As the Midwestern poet James Dillet Freeman wrote. “Christmas is a wonder…Christmas is believing. Christmas is hoping. Christmas is dreaming. It is a holiday holy to humanity’s dreams and hopes. So you see, it’s not about the words so much as it is about showing up in the world as glorious spiritual selves, and sharing love, peace, faith, hope and joy with each other.” And this folks is exactly who Linda Richards is year after year, along with her home of Christmas trees!