Dhonna Goodale typically starts putting up the Christmas displays at her Flanders home at the end of September. Even with a small army of five to six people to help she’s not usually finished decorating until the end of November.
And that’s for a reason.
Elaborate displays around the home include no less than five life-size Santas, a giant winking moose, enough poinsettia plants to fill a greenhouse, an immense wreath and angels, angels and more angels.
“I love angels,” Ms. Goodale beamed during a recent tour of her home. “They make me happy.”
While it takes two months to put up all her Christmas displays, it takes Ms. Goodale even longer to take them down. She tends to leave her holiday exhibits up until the middle of March and doesn’t hold her Christmas party until late January.
“I do it that way because I don’t want to compete with all those other parties,” she said proudly. “I work too hard on these displays and I want people to come and take it all in.”
Among those wondrous and elaborate bits of eye candy – there’s also lots of real candy – are no less than four themed Christmas trees, which include a money tree and a boys’ tree dedicated to her two sons, Jesse, 12, and Jared, 10.
The boys’ tree is bedazzled with tiny elves, huge Hershey candy bars, oversized caramel corn, bubble gum, a rocking horse and a sleigh. Ms. Goodale also has an admittedly self-indulgent girl’s tree, which features Barbie dolls, clothes, candy and credit cards.
“What more does a girl need?” Ms. Goodale chuckled, noting that she had never had a Barbie doll until she married her husband, Bobby. “My mother would always buy me cheap Barbie knockoffs,” she added, “so when I got married, the first thing I did was buy myself a real Barbie.”
But the grandest and most touching of Ms. Goodale’s trees, which sits in a stately upper floor living room overlooking Reeve’s Bay, is her “angel tree.” Standing roughly eight feet tall, the tree is a tight, intricate, Victorian puzzle of ornate angel dolls and dazzling poinsettia leaves.
It takes Ms. Goodale roughly a month to construct the elaborate tree, which features photos of her recently deceased mother-in-law, Mary Goodale, 92, and her late dog Spot, being held by separate angels. Despite her heartache, Ms. Goodale forged on with her yearly tradition of decking her halls.
“Decorating makes me feel good,” she said. “After my mother-in-law passed away – a woman who treated me like she’d given birth to me – I just threw myself into it.”
Ms. Goodale has been assembling her quirky Christmas collection of ornaments and displays since she married Mr. Goodale 16 years ago.
Mr. Goodale lovingly shakes his head when he looks at all the displays covering his massive home, which had been a small cottage when he lived in it as a bachelor years ago. Lightly admitting that he would never have expanded his home nor ever decorated it if he hadn’t gotten married, Mr. Goodale smiles when he looks at what has become his wife’s dream home.
“It’s her house, she just allows me to live here as long as I pay the bills,” Mr. Goodale chuckled. “But I love it. She’s made the house into a very special place, especially at this time of year.”
Mr. Goodale adds that he is somewhat confused as to why his spouse would go to all the trouble of putting up so many decorations each year at their isolated home.
“Who the heck is going to see it?” Mr. Goodale shrugs with a smile.
“I am!” Ms. Goodale responds boldly. “I like looking at it. It makes me happy.”
The two-story home is a giant labyrinth of rooms, each with its own theme and personality. An avid shopper, Ms. Goodale said she has furnished most the house mostly with items found at Home Goods/T.J. Maxx.
But she admits she’s not above doing some occasional dumpster diving to rescue a unique item, which the registered mortician and make-up artist lovingly restores.
“I’m a dumpster diva,” she laughed heartily.
The house also features a modest movie theater, complete with cushy theater style seats, a stately library, various living rooms, most with well-stocked bars, a recreation room, which features a 1950s style juke box, slot machines, an arcade style pac-man game, a pool table, a bar, a Cadillac love seat, complete with taillights that light up, and dozens of security cameras to keep an eye on it all.
“When we have our parties, roughly a thousand of our closest friends, things have gotten stolen,” Ms. Goodale said, noting that those parties, which often include close friends such as divas Patty LaBelle and Roberta Flack, also have undercover detectives as guests.
The Goodales host their yearly by-invitation-only Christmas party as a way of saying thank-you to people who help out with their yearly scholarship drive in honor of her sister, Tara, who was murdered seven years ago at the age of 25 by her jealous husband.
The fundraiser consists of a massive summer party in their backyard, which offers a full basketball court, a small golf course, a giant chess game and live music from some of the entertainment world’s hottest performers.
“This whole holiday season is all about the birth of Jesus,” Ms. Goodale said. “It’s not about fitting Jesus or God conveniently into your life. We only use God when we need him, but for me it’s a way of life.”