The Rev. William Sanderson has adult responsibilities as pastor of two South Omaha Catholic churches, St. Mary and St. Francis of Assisi.
When it comes to Christmas decorations, however, he's still a boy.
Sanderson said it takes him two weeks to put up all the trees, nativity sets, ornaments, wreaths, garlands and other Christmas décor at the rectory.
“It's kind of an extension of the decorating I do in church three times a year — Christmas, Easter and fall,” Sanderson said.
In the rectory this Christmas, he set up 27 trees, ranging in height from 14 inches to 8 feet.
“Wherever I can put a tree, I do so,” he said.
There are small trees on the entryway's credenza, the house's two landings and on several shelves.
At 7 feet, the “Dowager Empress” tree rules the dining room. He gave the tree that nickname after a trip to Russia, which had three Dowager Empresses in its history.
In the living room, there is a 6-foot tree and several 4-footers. “It's very eclectic as far as feature trees in the living room,” Sanderson said.
Decorations adorn the outdoor patio and arbor, too.
Growing up in Sioux Falls, S.D., Sanderson helped decorate the family Christmas tree each year.
He recalled the time he and his father bought a kit and flocked the tree at home. It involved setting the vacuum cleaner to blow out, Sanderson said.
While he was in seminary, Sanderson's parents lived in Arizona half the year, returning to Sioux Falls for Christmas before going back to the Southwest until spring.
“I just started decorating their home” in Sioux Falls, he said. His parents came from Arizona to a house ready for Christmas.
At the time, his parents' South Dakota home had furniture upholstered in mauve. He created a tree with all pink and silver ornaments to coordinate with the furniture, but getting all the right colors was time-consuming.
Eventually, his parents moved into assisted living and Sanderson claimed the pink and silver tree.
“I worked so long and hard on this tree that I'm just taking it with me,” Sanderson remembers thinking. That's the tree he calls the Dowager Empress.
People started giving him Christmas ornaments as gifts while he was a priest in O'Neill, Neb., in 1989. The collection includes a hula girl made of seashells, a hot dog on a bun, and a calypso-playing frog, he said.
When asked how many ornaments he has, Sanderson replied: “I don't know I can count that high.” (He also has eight nativity sets but lacks room to display them all.)
Besides the Dowager Empress, the dining room has a crystal chandelier hung with tiny ornaments and a large, elegant garland that requires two people to hang, Sanderson said. Standing on shelves are figurines of Santa, angels and carolers.
“My home is a refuge for orphan Christmas ornaments,” Sanderson said.
Sunday, he opened the rectory to the parish, friends and neighbors to behold the Christmas palace he creates every year.