Photo by Michael Buckelew
Each Thanksgiving, after the meal is long finished and everyone is munching on leftovers, the real highlight of the day for Leslynn Abbott and her family unfolds.
Children and grandchildren gather around the television to watch the lighting of the Macy's Christmas tree in downtown Atlanta.
As soon as the singer hits the high note in "O Holy Night," the family claps and rushes around the house to light the Christmas trees -- all 30 of them.
"That to me is the best part of Thanksgiving," Abbott said.
Abbott has Christmas trees in her living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms, bonus room and even in the big garden tub in the master bathroom. All the trees are lit, and each has a unique theme.
"It is absolutely festive," Abbott said. "I don't have to turn on any lights in the house. You can almost read by them."
A lifelong Newton County resident, Abbott said she remembers as a child driving by a house with a Santa and sleigh on the roof. As part of her tree collection, she has put a life-size Santa decorating a tree in the front window of her home. In fact, all of her windows have trees in them.
"I hope that other kids will have that same excitement when they drive by and see Santa in the window," Abbott said.
Abbott's Christmas tree collection started about 14 years ago when she wanted a white and silver tree to go along with her annual family Christmas tree. Then she realized that she had so many ornaments, she could put up another themed tree.
"Then it just kind of rolled," Abbott said.
She has a Santa Claus tree, a peppermint tree, a snowman tree, a Mardi Gras tree (with pink, purple and green ornaments), a Nativity scene tree, a gum drop tree, a patriotic tree, a gingerbread tree and a kitchen gadget tree.
Her husband, Gordon, is working on building up his NASCAR tree. Abbott also reserves two trees in her bonus room for her grandchildren to decorate.
Abbott's favorite tree is the family-themed tree in her living room, which displays decorations from her childhood as well as her two daughters' days as children.
"That's the one I'd put up if I could only put up one tree," Abbott said. "It's probably not the prettiest tree, but it's very sentimental. Every ornament is wrapped and labeled. They're precious to me."
About the middle of October, Abbott starts the process of decorating the trees. Her husband brings the trees up from the basement. She fluffs and decorates them.
"My husband has to move around at Christmas because if he stands still, I'll decorate him," Abbott joked.
She admits that preparing all the trees is a big job, but she manages to keep the process organized, with help from her husband, who is also responsible for storing all of the ornaments and trees.
"When two-thirds of it is done and I've made the hundreth trip, I think, 'Have you lost your mind?' But then I get a second wind," Abbott said.
The trees shine from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
"I know how it makes me feel when it's all done. When I turn on the lights at night, it's almost a magical thing. I can't imagine not doing it," Abbott said.
By the first of the year, the trees are down and put away.
"I'm not superstitious, but I've always been raised that your Christmas decorations should not come into the new year," Abbott said. "I'm ready for them to be gone and ready to get my house back."