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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Decorating 'Grandma's' is family affair

Sunday, December 12, 2004

(Photo)
Anna Glastetter, 90, poses in front of only a fraction of Christmas decorations outside her home. (Inset) Glastetter's granddaughter-in-law, Tonya Glastetter, and her son, Nicholas, check the sleigh.
NEW HAMBURG --When it comes to tackling the typically dreaded holiday task of hanging Christmas lights, most people either do it themselves or hire a professional.

But for 90-year-old Anna Glastetter of New Hamburg, she just relies on her family -- all 50-plus of them.

For over 25 years, some of Glastetter's children, 24 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren and their spouses have come together for a day, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, to decorate the outside of her house and lawn.

The result? A remarkable display of holiday spirit -- and a family's love for "Grandma." And with Christmas just around the corner, Mrs. Glastetter is enjoying every minute of her holiday spectacle.

"This is what Grandma likes. She lives for it each year," said grandchild Tiffany King.

What started out as a few lights on the front porch years ago has evolved into at least 20 Christmas displays and thousands of twinkling lights. No one is really sure how many lights or displays are set up -- they quit counting years ago, family members have said.

From a Santa sleigh with a conveyor belt that rotates little bear Santas to a 70-year-old Nativity scene to the newest of holiday decor like the popular inflatable snowmen and the patriotic touch of an American flag, Glastetter's lawn, house, shop and surrounding areas are decked out with holiday cheer. To safely display decorations, a second electrical box was even installed years ago, King said. "And she still adds to it every year. Sometimes we just hide stuff upstairs so we don't have to use all of it," King laughed.

Few town residents and/or visitors will argue it's hard not to notice the glow at the south end of New Hamburg during the holiday season.

"She likes when she's sitting inside and sees cars slow down as they drive by (her house) to look at all the lights," Danny Joe Glastetter noted about his grandmother. "And some will turn around and drive back through to get a better look."

King credits her cousins, David and Danny Joe Glastetter, for being the foremen of the annual event. The brothers work in construction, and are also electricians, which comes in handy.

But David and Danny Joe Glastetter insist there's not any formal organization to the task, and there's no specific person who can receive more credit than others.

"To me, it's a family thing," said David Glastetter.

At any given time there's at least 30 people, ranging in ages 1 and up, can be found pitching in on the day decorations are put up; and throughout the course of the day there's 50 or more relatives who stop in to help with the decorating, King estimated.

"It's really more of a relaxing time than anything. It's not commercial; it's about getting the family together," David Glastetter said.

Glastetter's daughter, Vickie Eftink, agreed.

"It's great," Eftink said. "Every family is represented, and we can get together and it's kind of like having a reunion."

What she's no longer able to help do outdoors, Grandma makes up for it in the kitchen. Each year she makes pots of her homemade chili and chicken noodle soup for everyone.

A typical "lights hanging day" begins around 6 a.m. with a couple of people in the attic, where all of the decorations are stored, handing down decorations to two other people, who bring everything out to the front porch. Then the items are placed at their tentative locations, and everyone breaks to eat.

Eftink said everyone knows what they're supposed to do. "And it just happens and it just comes together," Eftink said.

After eating, around 5 p.m., the lights are plugged in and problems, if any, are fixed.

And with the flip of four light switches from inside a closet located inside her house, Glastetter can turn on all of her lights.

"She used to have to go outside and plug them in on the side of her house so one year we rewired it so she could do it from inside the house," David Glastetter explained.

Although there have been years with electrical glitches, cut light wires and stolen snowmen, the Glastetter family has managed to escape with no injuries.

"She'll do anything for any one of us, and if we can help her, then we will," commented Danny Joe Glastetter. "As long as Grandma wants us to do it, we'll keep doing it." While different lights and displays have come and gone (and some hidden) through the years, there are two items that must return each year: the Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus displays and the lighted star that hangs on the side of Grandma's house, Danny Joe Glastetter said.

"What's sad to us is we'd like to do more and have talked about making things more elaborate, but there's just never enough time to do it all," he said.

But Grandma seems pleased with her family's work. When asked which display was her favorite, Mrs. Glastetter replied: "Everything."

Mrs. Glastetter admitted seeing her family come together to put up Christmas lights for her makes her feel good. And with her German accent, she added: "It's a family affair."