Newberry family shares tips for decking the halls at Christmas


Pat Newberry’s childhood on a farm near Springfield, Illinois, created many Christmas traditions for her family. Through the years, she and husband Tim have added customs for their twins Jane and Kate to celebrate the season, along with friends and relatives.

Honoring family traditions

“As a child, I looked forward all year to our Christmas Eve family gathering,” Pat said. “We arrived at an aunt’s home to find it decorated with a beautiful tree covered with ornaments and twinkling Christmas lights. Santa visited and gave each cousin a sack of candy and an orange. Each family brought a favorite dish to share.”

After moving away for college, Pat started to collect ornaments and had her first “dorm room tree.” She decorated the 12-inch tree with tiny wooden ornaments, which she has owned for 40-plus years.

When twins Jane and Kate were born, Pat sought to re-create the atmosphere of her aunt’s home at Christmas. Pat and Tim arranged for Santa to give presents to children attending the family’s Christmas get-together. They eventually added Santa’s Workshop, with elves and a food drive for a local food bank.

Formal to historical

After the Thanksgiving turkey leaves the table, the Newberrys and the twins’ friends start the decorating process, which requires five full days. “We play Christmas music, eat homemade peppermint bark and drink egg nog as my husband assembles trees and my daughters carry decorations from the attic,” Pat said.

Their four Christmas trees range from 8-12 feet tall. The entry tree is the most formal and traditional in red, green and gold with silver accents. The music room’s rustic tree boasts musical notes and tiny instruments. In the dining room, the tree blends a bit of whimsy with a taste of elegance.

In their family room, Pat’s favorite tree holds 800-plus ornaments, “each like a history lesson. Every ornament has a story. Whenever Tim and I traveled, we always collected an ornament to remember the trip.”

The most cherished decorations contain photos of Jane and Kate on Christmas mornings as they grew up. “It takes many hours to place each ornament – a job my daughters complete each year,” Pat said.

In addition, Pat saved her mother’s ornaments that brightened Christmas trees in Illinois. “Though very delicate and somewhat faded, those ornaments bring back memories of all of those Christmases so long ago,” Pat said.

A taste of nostalgia

On Christmas Eve, the Newberrys watch holiday classics, like “The Grinch” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” while finishing last-minute gift-wrapping. When Jane and Kate were younger, Pat baked cookies for Santa and made reindeer food, containing oatmeal flakes and glitter, scattered on the driveway to guide Rudolph and the team.

On Christmas morning the family opens stockings and reflects upon the past year. “Each person shares a special memory. We open presents and have a brunch of traditional holiday foods, including ham, turkey, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, a traditional potato dish called kugelis, homemade blackberry/blueberry pie and red velvet cake,” Pat said.

The Newberrys moved to Madison in August 2012 to care for Tim’s parents, who were in failing health.

Family matters

Tim, a Huntsville native, graduated from Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, with a triple major – computer science, mathematics and physics. He is director of Common Securitization Solutions in Bethesda, Maryland.

Pat graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and University of San Francisco with a master’s degree in public administration. She works as transplant coordinator for Vanderbilt Medical Center and coordinates satellite clinics for heart, kidney, liver, lung and pancreas transplant patients in Madison.

Jane and Kate graduated from Bob Jones High School. Both college freshmen, Jane is enrolled at Auburn University, while Kate attends Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.