Christmas hostess with a host of trees

Cover Story: Christmas hostess with a host of trees

Christmas hostess with a host of trees

Who doesn't love a Christmas tree?

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Rick Danzl


Who doesn’t love a Christmas tree? These holiday favorites are bright and colorful and come in all sizes and varieties. The Christmas tree is at the heart of a Christmas home.

Last season, the At Home in Central Illinois staff made the trek to Clinton Lake to investigate what we heard was “a house with some many trees it will take your breath away,” according to News-Gazette reader Beverly Hermann, who knew we were interested in lavish holiday homes.

Hermann was correct. The At Home staff literally paused when the owner of this Christmas home opened the door. Lynn Wingert of Weldon has many varieties of trees: different colors and themes, a plethora of sizes and types of trees, and many types of décor that change with the room. The entire home is dedicated to Christmas trees.

Christmas trees have an interesting beginning. The evergreen fir tree has been used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years. Ancient people used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The fresh fir aroma was probably as welcome as it is to many Christmas revelers today.

Historians believe that people have been using fir trees in association with holidays for around 1,000 years.

Wingert, most likely, has a tree for every century since the Christmas tree first made its debut. That’s right: She has a lot of trees.

“I love them so much, and add more every year. Our family lost count at around 100 trees,” she said.

Back in the day, when Christmas trees were first making their debut in people’s homes those trees were probably hung upside down – as if they were being dried – from the rafters. Were they decorated? Most likely they were. Think of a chandelier, and this was how the first trees looked in European homes, although no candles were added, so the only illumination was probably from the hearth.\

Wingert doesn’t have any hanging from the ceiling, but she does have trees in every room, on every level, in most of her windows and on the stairwell all are on timers and remotes so they turn-on gracefully and magically all on their own.

However, Wingert would have no trees if it weren’t for Martin Luther. The first actual, bonafide Christmas tree is documented to have been displayed by this 16th-century German clergyman. History states that Luther left the priesthood, started the Protestant reformation (the printing press made the Bible accessible to all, and people wanted change) and transformed the Christian faith forever. Luther is actually credited with having the first actual Christmas tree. He added lights to a fir tree, and it was so beautiful that others caught on. In the deep, dark and short days of December in Germany, this was probably a most welcome sight.

Wingert lives right on the edge of Clinton Lake on a dramatic lakeside bluff. The views from both her dining and family rooms make one catch their breath. The wonderful view of the lake, coupled with Christmas trees all aglow, makes for a lovely holiday display and most welcome sight in lakeside Weldon.

One would think that this single mom must have invested a lot financially in this festive and magical Chistmas display.

“No. I am pretty good at finding treasures. I shop at a variety of resale shops,” she said.

Since Wingert is a nurse, she supports those who need a “hand-up.” She makes it a point to help others in both her career and personal life.

“I find most of my treasures at Encore in Clinton,” Wingert said.

Encore Thrift Store is a nonprofit organization that provides employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.