Walking into Melanie and Darin Hand’s home during the holidays feels like stepping into Santa’s workshop. The Oak Harbor couple’s growing collection includes eight trees, all with different themes. One is decorated with ornaments received as gifts or obtained while on vacation; a new banjo-playing Santa hung on this tree from their trip to Nashville earlier this year.
“We always look for Santas,” said Melanie, who did the majority of the decorating.
This is clear when looking around the house, where dozens of Santa figures, many of them handcrafted, reside.
A few trees are color coordinated, one is bird themed and another is dedicated to their niece Lizzy, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome. Lizzy’s tree has ornaments that either she or her mom, Darin’s sister, had made through the years.
Another tree is in remembrance of loved ones who have passed away, and is covered in ornaments that remind Melanie and Darin of them.
This holiday tradition started in 2001 when the couple moved back to Oak Harbor from where Darin had been stationed in Spain.
“We love Christmas so much,” said Melanie. The two starting dating 32 years ago during the holidays and the time of year has been a special one for them ever since. She said even now she can’t seem to go to Walmart without coming home with more Christmas decorations. “It just became a sickness,” she laughed.
Every year they host an “open house” for friends and family, both of their office Christmas parties happen there and they were featured on past Soroptimist Christmas Home Tours twice.
“Melanie puts so much work into this,” said Darin. “It’s for people to enjoy.”
Melanie usually takes a week off of work to complete the holiday house transformation. She puts in so much work because she wants to be able to share it with others.
“It’s a labor of love,” she said.