The phrase “home for the holidays” has been coined for very good reason; the flights are full in December and treacherous weather braved by people trying to return home to their families in time to celebrate the season.
Chris and Cheryl Lentz and their three daughters have now settled into the home they envisioned, planned and finally built over a span of roughly five years. Five Oaks Manor is perfectly designed for everything the family needs, from raising three teenage daughters to celebrating family occasions—and it is waiting for the memories to be made.
The family certainly focuses on the true meaning of the traditional winter holiday. “First of all,” Chris explains, “Our family knows in our hearts and souls that Christmas is centered on Christ’s birth. And wrapped around this miracle, we have cocooned ourselves in traditions new and old.”
Decking the halls in a 9,000-square-foot home takes time, and Chris starts pulling out decorations in October to get the home ready for parties and entertaining in November. Each year, 15 trees are decorated throughout the home, although three special trees stay up year-round.
“Since our girls were young, I started a tradition of a ‘holiday tree.’ Essentially, we’ve had a Christmas tree up in our house full time for more than 15 years,” Chris says. “Over the course of the year, each upcoming holiday is featured on the tree, starting with Christmas, then Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving—and right back to Christmas! Over the years I’ve collected blown-glass ornaments reflecting the different holidays, and I also add vintage postcards to give a special dash of age and tradition.”
This holiday tree is a conscious effort on Chris and Cheryl’s part to make their home as magical as possible for the girls, all of whom now get a tree for each of their rooms, to decorate however they wish. Both Chris and Cheryl have Christmas trees in their offices that never come down (Chris’ is a Victorian feather tree), which is all part of their love of, and attitude toward, the holiday season.
“While Christmas comes once a year for most people, the spirit of Christmas lives here 365 days a year—it’s a Victorian dream come true!” Chris says, smiling. “But we are not trapped in the past, but rather are fascinated by it and comfortable in it. We just choose to surround ourselves in Victorian clutter, along with the conveniences of the day.”
Chris even still has his first Christmas tree, given to him in the 1960s. He describes it as “a hand-me-down, aluminum monstrosity—you know the kind—the one that came to life, turning on its electric color wheel. That’s how it all started for me.”
“I proposed on bended knee to the love of my life on Christmas Eve 1984 by pinning Cheryl’s engagement ring to the back of a Victorian lace ornament,” Chris adds happily. “Yes, we still have that cherished ornament.”
Last year—the family’s first Christmas at Five Oaks Manor—Cheryl took over the hostess role for Christmas Day celebrations. Initially, she thought she’d be overwhelmed with all of the cooking, but reality was much less scary than her imagination had led her to believe.
“It was nice to only have to worry about the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes,” Cheryl said. “I actually had some time to relax! Plus, it was wonderful to have the whole family together in the new house, making memories in our new home.”
Baking Springerle, a type of German cookie, is another Christmastime role that Cheryl has adopted from Chris’ mother. “All of the boys in Chris’ family love the Springerle cookies, but no one else in the family wanted to take up the tradition,” Cheryl remembers. “It’s a two-day process, but the cookies are worth it!”
On Christmas morning, no one family member is allowed downstairs first. As with Easter morning, a photo is taken of the three girls waiting on the stairs before running down to discover their gifts. Tradition states that stockings are opened first.
When asked if the two Yorkshire Terriers, Holly and Winkie, get their own stockings, Cheryl immediately answers, “Of course! It’s when they get their new leashes and collars.”
Five Oaks Manor was built with one purpose: to be the family home that Chris and Cheryl had always dreamed of raising children and grandchildren in; a legacy of memories to pass on to their daughters.
Chris describes it best: “Traditions are wonderful things, bringing something constant and familiar in our whirlwind world of change and uncertainty. Equally wonderful is starting new traditions that fit our times and our family. Traditions bring people together…those who inhabit this earth with us, and those who have come before us.”
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by Jennifer Myers
Photographed by Jaimee Itagaki
Styled by Merrie Destefano