A house full of holiday cheer
La PORTE – For some, it’s Christmas carols or the smell of gingerbread. For others, it’s wrapping gifts or that first sip of eggnog. For La Porte’s Carol Coslet, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without decorations filling her home.
She begins the process right after Thanksgiving and spends 7-10 days transforming her home into a Christmas celebration – until after New Year’s Day.
“I just always have,” was her simple answer as to why this senior still takes the time and trouble to decorate – when others can’t quite understand.
“They think it’s too much work. But it’s OK – I don’t do it just for them. I do it for me, too. I can enjoy it all month. To me, it’s not a lot of work or too much, but I enjoy it,” Coslet said.
A motion-activated Santa greets visitors with “Merry Christmas” when guests enter a living room decked out in a blue theme. Her dining room is devoted to candy and cookie decor, and the area near the large Christmas tree in the family room is decorated with Santas.
She even takes down her wall hangings and wraps them in festive paper.
She doesn’t remember when she started the tradition, but knows it was before she and her husband, Roger, moved into the home 23 years ago.
Over the years she’s gotten rid of many decorations, she admits, but there are many she won’t part with because of the memories attached. Like the battery-powered snoring Santa sleeping under her tree.
“Roger and I walked into Sears one day and wondered who was making that noise in the store. Boy, was the Santa snoring and it sounded funny,” she recalled.
That year, for her birthday on Nov. 26, Roger surprised her with that snoring Santa and a motion-activated Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Perhaps her favorite decoration is a special nativity set, created by a friend Jessie Sheets, who attended her church. Beside it sits a ceramic church and white tree lit by blue lights made by her mother-in-law, Bernice Coslet.
She won’t part with several floral arrangements created by her sister-in-law Peggy Howard, nor the Christmas bears she inherited from her sister, Ann Colvin.
In the family room, guests enjoy the arrangement of North Pole Series Department 56 figurines, gifted to Coslet by her son, Jason, all sitting on a blanket of cotton “snow.”
On her tree are plenty of antique ornaments that were her mother’s and mother-in-law’s, and others made by her son as a child or purchased in honor of her grandson, Nicholas.
“I have more ornaments than I can put on my tree,” she said.
Holiday cheer even covers her bathroom, with a red, green and white shower curtain, bright red and green rugs, and Christmas accessories. A cement Santa and Mrs. Claus sit behind the whirlpool tub.
She remembers spotting the couple while garage-saling with her sister, Ann Colvin, who lost her battle with cancer a short time later. “I think of Ann whenever I put them out,” she said.
“My stuff is old – I like old stuff,” she added. Some of icicles are from the original tree she and Roger got 50 Christmases ago. She carefully removes them each year and stores them in a bag. “Even the icicles are antique. Why buy new every year?” she asked.
The stockings hung on her fireplace are just as old – they once held treats for her husband and his family. A line of felt magnets line up on her refrigerator. Her mother-in-law made these more than 50 years ago. A candle-wicking Merry Christmas hanging reminds of when good friend Sharon Tanber taught her the skill. And, the seven wreaths on her doors recall the fun she had creating them out of coat hangers and yarn with Colvin.
Over the years, Coslet found decor at garage sales, including eight poinsettia dishes to add to an identical set she already had. She also turns to estate sales, auctions and department store sales after the holidays.
“I can get a whole box of stuff for a dollar,” she said. “I can take what I want and sell the rest in my garage sale.”
She holds two large sales annually – one in June featuring Valentine’s, Saint Patrick’s Day and Easter decor; the other in September offering Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decor.
Although Coslet enjoys decorating for other holidays, she doesn’t go all out like she does at Christmas.
But decorating isn’t all she does in a big way for the holidays. She’s known for her delicious treats, a baking tradition she began at least 40 years ago. Each year she enjoys presenting her family, friends and neighbors with trays of goodies.
“I’m my best customer. I have my share. I have to sample it before I can give it away,” she said, laughing.
And for Coslet, Christmas wouldn’t be the same either without plenty of gifts under her tree for Jason, his wife, Trese, and Nicholas.
“We would buy each other 20 gifts,” she recalled when she and Roger first married. “I still buy a lot. I have always done that. I tell my family to get me a list in September.”
Another tradition involves the wrapping.
“Whenever there is a large box to wrap, we always wrap it in little bits of paper,” she said. That started when Roger couldn’t find the gift wrap when she was at work, so used whatever scraps he could find to wrap a toy box for Jason. The tradition had lasted over the years.
“I always get Jason something crazy,” she shared with a laugh. “One year I got him 12-inch poker cards as a joke because he has poker parties. Another year I got him a Christmas stocking hat with a bill on the front. And there was a plunger shotgun too.”
Last year Jason gave her stalks of cotton for Christmas. It was a poignant gift as she picked cotton as a child in Arkansas.
The youngest of 12 siblings, Coslet was born the day after Thanksgiving.
“My mom was in labor all day, but she wouldn’t stop so she could serve the Thanksgiving meal. After dinner she went to the hospital to have me and left the rest of the kids to do the dishes.
“She had to think of something joyous so she chose Joyce as my middle name,” she said.
She wasn’t sure why her mom chose Carolyn as her first name, but, with a Christmas ring to it, Coslet doesn’t mind one bit.