– Story by Devon MacKenzie
For many, Christmas is a celebratory time of year filled with friends, family and traditions. For Heather Dickson it is exactly that, with a big emphasis on the tradition of decorating her picture-perfect little home on Monterey Avenue.
|Heather Dickson reads a Christmas book in the front room of her Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|
“It all started when I was young,” explains Heather, sitting in her cozy kitchen sipping a cup of tea.
“My father, who was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, was stationed in Metz, France, when I was a child. We spent a lot of time wandering the Christmas markets, which have been a staple of the city since the 1600s, and I embraced all of it. I became this little Christmasophile,” laughs Heather.
Heather, who was around nine-years-old when they first arrived in France and 13-years-old when they left, was enamored by the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional European Christmas and has continued the tradition to this day in her own way.
Now retired, she has much more time to spend preparing and organizing for the season, which her family and friends have come to expect.
|Table set for guests in Heather Dickson’s Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|
“I host a big decorating party at the beginning of December, and then another Christmas party later in the month,” she explains.
“I love hosting people, I have such fond memories of my parents, who were very gregarious people, hosting big holiday parties and all the cooking and baking that went along with it. So every year I try to re-create that same feeling.”
From the decorations, to the ambiance, and even down to the china her holiday food and baking is served on (a 10-piece setting of the traditional Spode Christmas Tree pattern china just for the occasion), every facet of the holiday is covered in Heather’s house.
|Nutcracker collection on the mantle in the front room in Heather Dickson’s Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|
But where has all of her exquisite, traditional décor come from?
“Believe it or not, I still have many of the pieces from when I was young,” she says. “A lot of the traditional European decorations are so well-made they last for years.”
Heather’s collection is also added to by friends and family who come to her annual decorating parties — people normally bring a decoration — and also through her travels around the world.
“Since I’ve been retired, I’ve been enjoying a lot of travel and I really get to add some fantastic pieces to my collection through that,” she says.
|Angel collection in Heather Dickson’s Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|
Some of her favourites include a set of small, German-made angel ornaments which she brought back to Canada as a child.
“That’s probably my largest themed collection of ornaments, the angels, and it all started with a Hummel cherub ornament when I was around nine-years-old,” she says, smiling. “I love angels, and I usually try to find an angel ornament when I’m travelling. I have angels from all over the world and every one has a story. It’s a great way to re-live those fond memories.”
Even the smallest of details — like wrapping all her paintings on the wall in gift wrap and donning them with bows — turn her home into an immersive Christmas experience.
“I think the most important thing with a collection like this is to be very judicious with what you bring into your home,” Heather says of her holiday assemblage. “Everything I collect has meaning and I try to change it up each year so it looks different. I’ve had to learn that not everything has to go out every year. It’s more important to me to create beautiful scenes and vignettes, and you can’t always do that if you’re trying to incorporate everything.”
Heather says she begins to pull out decorations in mid-November and starts to get organized with her plans for the various vignettes.
|Family christening cups filled with red balls in Heather Dickson’s Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|
Around December 10th, Heather puts up the tree (real, of course) and the last touches go on around the house. But by Boxing Day, the takedown has already begun and by New Year’s Day, there isn’t a trace left and everything has been safely tucked back into boxes for the following year.
|The front room in Heather Dickson’s Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|
“It’s always a little sad, but because we live in Victoria, I always declare that day the first day of spring and it helps to bring my spirits up,” laughs Heather.
|Decorations in the laundry room in Heather Dickson’s Oak Bay home decorated for Christmas. Don Denton photography|