Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Chris Hayes displays a Limited Edition nutcracker.
At the beginning of October, Christine Hayes was too busy to worry about Halloween decorations or the perfect costume.
She was too busy setting up for the Christmas season.
Hayes spent those first weeks of fall going through the boxes of decorations that fill one of her storage sheds and delicately unpacked her collection of Christmas-themed decor.
By the end of November, her house on De Cesari Avenue was covered, inside and outside, with nutcrackers, ornaments, lights, Santas, angels, and Christmas trees.
“I don’t go all out for decorating the other holidays, but I love Christmas. I love Christmas. It’s my season,” said Hayes, who just turned 69.
Four rooms in Hayes’s house feature some sort of Christmas decoration, but none is as extravagant as the nutcracker room, which holds 154 nutcrackers of varying shapes and sizes.
Hayes said she started collecting nutcrackers in 2000 after her grandchildren had gotten her a few for Christmas; she’s been collecting them ever since.
Hayes has nutcrackers made in Germany, antique nutcrackers, character nutcrackers from movies, sports team nutcrackers and every nutcracker in between. She is always adding and diversifying her collection.
“I think I’m never going to get another one and then I run across another one,” said Hayes. “I’m a collector. I don’t know how to stop collecting.”
Along with her nutcracker room, Hayes also has four decorated artificial trees in her house. There is a princess and angel-themed tree in her living room, a food-themed tree in her kitchen, a colorful tree in her hallway and a white and silver tree in the nutcracker room.
Hayes said she began putting up four trees so that her husband, Leslie Hayes, who passed away in 2011, would be able to see a tree no matter where he was in the house.
“Les was bedridden the last couple of years, so he wasn’t able to get up and enjoy this,” said Hayes, “so that’s where the other trees came in.”
He could see the tree in the hallway from his bedroom, the tree in the kitchen when he ate and the tree in the nutcracker room when he was sitting in the living room. There was always a tree in his line of sight.
“He liked the lights and he liked Christmas real well, so I just expanded it throughout the house,” said Hayes.
Although Leslie Hayes, who was publisher of The Madera Tribune, has passed away, the tradition of putting up four trees has remained a part of the decoration. Although the trees remain the same theme every Christmas, Hayes does add new decorations and ornaments every year.
The outside of Hayes’ house is decorated just as extravagantly as the inside. She has icicle lights lining the roof of her house, inflatable dogs and cats with Santa hats, snow people, nutcrackers, elves, presents and a large arch that says, ‘Merry Christmas.’
From the outside, you can also see the decorations in Hayes’s bay window, which has candles and lights surrounding a three-foot-tall bird cage filled with pink ornaments.
Hayes not only decorates her house, but she also helps others decorate their houses and trees.
“I just like helping people,” said Hayes.
Along with decorating houses and trees, Hayes also makes gingerbread houses, gumdrop trees, fudge and peanut butter balls during Christmas time.
Making the gumdrop trees takes around four hours and making the peanut butter balls is a task that can take up to a few days to complete, according to Hayes.
For this holiday season, Hayes said she made 17 dozen peanut butter balls, which she plans to give away to people. Hayes disperses her baked goods amongst her doctors, veterinarian, neighbors, friends and family.
Hayes bakes and puts up decorations for other holidays as well. She has another storage shed in her backyard full of decorations for other holidays, but she does not decorate to the same extent that she does for Christmas.
In explanation for why she prioritizes Christmas time, Hayes said, “If you like Christmas, then you like things to be festive.”