How long does it take your family to decorate a Christmas tree?
Barbara Wyatt, National Christmas Tree Association representative, said her daughter, Shannon Wyatt, 37, spent two hours decorating their 12-foot Christmas tree. “Once she started, she didn’t quit,” Wyatt said. “She was ‘dead set’ to get it done,”
In 20 minutes, five staff members can decorate an 8-foot tree at the historic Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, W,Va. “Here’s the secret to our trees — a lot of ribbon,” said Betsy Conte, director of social activities. “That gives a very nice look to a tree, rather than just ornaments.”
During Conte’s 22 years of decorating The Greenbrier’s trees, she has developed an organized system: First, put on the topping, then wrap the tree in ribbon and then add the skirt. “Then, you just fill it in with ornaments and gizmos,” she said.
Gizmos on the 16-foot Christmas tree, located in the Tea Lobby, include brightly wrapped presents and vibrant red twigs sticking out from every angle. Traditionally styled glass ornaments and whimsical star garlands add elegance to the branches.
Tree styles at the resort vary year to year. This season Conte decorated the Spa Relaxation Room with a heavenly theme. The wispy, ethereal, pink crochet tree skirt sets the foundation for the divine motif. The branches hold musical floating angels and words of joy send the message of peace and healing.
Enormous glittering tulle butterflies, golden metal purses, large violet and green glass orbs and tops adorn the spa’s reception area tree.
The number of decorated trees and the collection of ornaments have expanded over the years. “I have added trees,” Conte said. “My first tree was my first year here, and it was only in the main lobby. I made the ornaments for that tree, because I didn’t have enough.”
Conte’s team decorates 45 publicly viewed silk Christmas trees, annually. “We have had to go to silk trees due to fire code,” she said. “The benefit would be that they can last into January.”
Traditionally, the holiday decorating projects begin the Monday after Thanksgiving. “We try to complete it so that it is done by the first weekend in December,” said Lynn Swann, director, The Greenbrier’s public relations.
The next decorating phase is for approximately 35 private Christmas trees to be completed by Dec. 22.
“When you arrive, your tree is there, and all you have to do is put your packages underneath it,” Conte said. “Ever since I’ve been here, they have been decorating trees in the rooms. I’m going to do a room tree just as elegantly as I’m going to do any other room.”
Guests ordering the $300 trees sometimes request traditional or white decorations.
“Occasionally, somebody will want just the tree lighted, and they don’t want any decorations on a tree,” Conte said. “So, all they want to do is come in, and, maybe, they bring their own ornaments,”
For generations families have come back to the resort to celebrate the holidays. “Often times you might find the parents, as children, were brought to the Greenbrier,” Swann said. “So now, they are continuing the tradition with their children and maybe even their grandchildren.”
Another Greenbrier tradition is the arrival of more than 2,000 poinsettias. Two 8-foot tall poinsettia trees, located in the lower level main entrance, stand adjacent to the gingerbread Greenbrier created by Executive Pastry Chef Thierry Delourneaux.
A 16-foot main poinsettia tree, erected only days before Christmas, will soon stand near the theater. “We have to be very careful about when we put it up,” Conte said. “We can’t put it up too early because it has to last through Jan. 5.”
The Greenbrier replaces the holiday décor with the floral arrangements and potted plants beginning on the Monday after New Years. Conte’s team packs the decorations in separate storage bins and prepares for the next year. “Then,” she said, “we all start from scratch,”