PITTSBURG — For 40 years, the Sluder family has elaborately decorated inside and the outside of their home, their displays have grown each year.
Starting out with a few mini string lights, they now have a yard full of holiday cheer.
“We’re about out of yard,” Kathy Sluder said.
Kathy, and her husband Tom, live on the very street on which she was raised. Her daughter Jill Popejoy lives in the house her mother grew up in, Kathy’s parents, Don and Eileen Dietz, live across the street, and the Sluder’s son lives around the block — although he keeps his Christmas decorations minimal in comparison to his mother’s home.
Kathy and Tom, Jill and her daughter, and Kathy’s parents are usually the only families on their street who decorate during the holidays.
The tradition, Jill speculates, began with her grandparents — because they have always decorated for the holidays. Both her parents’ and grandparents’ home have been decorated for Christmas as far back as she can remember.
“I thought everybody did that,” she said. “To me, I thought it was normal. We thought it was magical being in the house with it all.”
Jill said she has many memories when it comes to the holidays, she remembers helping her father climb the ladder to decorate. Her mother was the main decorator and “her cheerfulness spread to everybody,” Jill said.
In recent years, Jill said her grandfather’s favorite thing to do is beat Kathy at decorating.
“He goes outside with his reindeer and makes sure she’s looking out the window to let her know he beat her,” she said. “He’s always been a practical joker, it’s very fun.”
Jill’s 11-year-old daughter, Katy, has taken after grandmother, she tells everyone where to place the decorations, Jill said.
Kathy said she loves anything to do with Christmas and she collects decorations all year from sales, birthdays and other gifts.
“People seem to know what to get me,” she said laughing.
The holiday spirit has always been with Kathy and not only during the holiday season but all year round, she said. People may find Kathy jamming out to Christmas music throughout the year.
But, when Christmas does come around her spirit truly shows.
The whole setup takes up to two weeks and takes approximately a week to put away and stored in the basement.
In the past, just about every room had a tree, but this year they’ve kept it to about three to four. The main tree inside the house alone takes the family about four hours to decorate.
There are no empty branches on the tree in the living room, decorated with little snowmen, bears with Santa hats, candy canes and more.
In years past, Jill said the Christmas tree was decorated with long icicles — three strands per branch. They no longer use the icicles because the cat finds them amusing.
“I remember doing that with her, it had to be laid exactly right,” Jill said.
In just about every corner in the Sluder home you could find a snowman — in fact, there are over 300 snowmen and yes, Kathy counted.
Her husband said he doesn’t mind her holiday decorations.
“He’s my helper and my best friend,” Kathy said.
Jill agreed and said, “My dad’s a patient man, he maintains the lights and fixes bulbs that burn out.”
Kathy is not alone in Christmas decorating, her family comes over to help.
After Christmas is over, Kathy then takes down all of the decorations and replaces them with her winter-themed decorations which are blue and white.
The family doesn’t just decorate for Christmas, they decorate for Easter, Valentines Day and they “go all out” in the fall for Halloween too — and yes, they are usually the only people on the street to do so. Every holiday has different color lights inside, Jill said.
“Seeing how happy it makes her is the best part,” Jill said. “It carries over to everyone else, her Christmas spirit is infectious.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.