Home takes the extra step in decorating for Christmas

Published 6:20 pm Friday, December 16, 2016

By Carolyn Iamon

Lifestyle Editor

To paraphrase a song, If you love Christmas and you know it, then you really have to show it. That is just what the Penela family does.

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A spectacular display of outside decorations and lights at the home of Francisco and Starla Penela, and their daughter Olilvia at 622 West Street, invites passersby to stop and take in the little details of the period décor— the Gingerbread house on the porch and the hot air balloon holding two penguins suspended from the porch rafter.  But that is only the beginning of the story.

The Penelas enjoy entertaining and those who are invited to celebrate the holidays at their home are privy to a true, complete Victorian Christmas House. Many of them may have even helped put up the decorations.

Eleven Christmas trees adorn the rooms throughout the large home. They range from a red tree that greets visitors in the vestibule, to an 11 foot tree in the parlor, that literally goes from the floor to the ceiling, and an upside down tree in the formal dining room. 

Every tree and decoration has a story and a history.

The 11-foot tree is never taken down, according to Frank, who said it is just too tall to deal with. All of the trees are artificial except for one live tree in the game room, where the family spends most of its time.

The decorations don’t stop with the trees. There are Christmas scenes and displays throughout the house and greenery is roped around the chandeliers and the mantels of the seven fireplaces.

A pool table in the game room is set up as a village, complete with lit miniature buildings, skating figures and scenes.

The Penela Victorian home is on the Decatur County Register of Historic Places. Frank said they purchased the house in 1992. He described it at that time as basically a shell “with good bones.” They set about restoring it in a style appropriate to the period. They also found it necessary to rewire the whole house to accommodate all the Christmas lights. Frank said on the 100th Anniversary of the house in 1997, the family held a Victorian Christmas party.

Asked how long it takes to put up all the decorations and trees, he replied it used to take them a week. Now they have it down to a system and are able to complete it in one weekend. They invite their friends over for a pizza party and everyone pitches in to set up the displays. Likewise, it takes one weekend to take it all down. The ornaments are removed from the trees and packed away, while the trees are left standing in a storage unit.

There is even a remote system for lighting different sections of the decorations, so they don’t have to spend hours turning them on and off individually.

Asked why they do all this each year, Frank replied, “As a faithful family, we love Christmas and it allows us the opportunity to share that love with everyone else.”