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Christmas tradition governs

By Judy Hamilton

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Glen Reed is not who you might be expecting. She is the director of operations and events at the West Virginia Governor's Mansion. She could also be called the "elf-in-chief" during the Christmas holiday season.

"I've done design for years, but decorating for the holidays is my favorite way to create. It is what I enjoy the most," Reed said with a warm smile.

She describes her decorations this year at the Governor's Mansion as "an old-fashioned West Virginia Christmas" as she gestures toward various Christmas trees, displays, mantels and banisters decorated with natural pine, pinecones and berries. "It's simple yet very elegant," she explained.

She has designed several Christmas trees for the mansion, but she is proudest of assisting first lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin with the creation of the Artistree, which is now in its third year. West Virginia artists of all ages are invited to create ornaments for the Artistree, displayed during the holiday season in the reception foyer of the Governor's Mansion.

This year, Reed created her own ornament for the tree. Not surprisingly, she painted a portrait of Santa Claus on a large glass ball.

"The response has been amazing. This year's Artistree features 222 ornaments. Last year there were 130, and in 2011, 78 were submitted. They are from all over the entire state.

"The artistic talent we have in this state is unbelievable. The ornaments are made of textile, glass, wood, paper, photographs, gourds ... anything goes. We had an entire seventh-grade art class submit papier-mâché ornaments, which was wonderful when so many art programs have ceased," Reed said.

Another tree Reed especially enjoyed decorating is in the drawing room. It is topped with an arrangement of berries and branches and has a base of poinsettias. The tree is filled with nostalgic glass ornaments, traditional gift tags, natural burlap ribbon and handmade Christmas crackers.

Not the kind of crackers you eat, but the English type you give for entertainment. A Christmas cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated paper that makes a noise when pulled apart. It contains small trinkets, jokes, riddles or trivia on small strips of paper. Two people traditionally pull crackers apart, wishbone style, at the Christmas dinner table or at parties.

In one version of the cracker game, the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In another version, each person will have their own cracker and will keep its contents regardless of whose "end" of the cracker the prizes were contained.

"I like the whole going back in time and enjoying the nostalgia and simple ways at Christmas," Reed said. She recommended that families enjoy the fun of making their own crackers. (For instructions, visit www.oldenglishcrackers.com/make-your-own-crackers.htm.)

She then pointed to a beautifully arranged fireplace mantel in the drawing room with Santa Claus as the focal point. Reed said, "The portrait of Santa is a poster I found, and the frame I purchased at a thrift store."

Reed also pointed out beautiful gift boxes mounted on the wall of the ballroom. "These are lids to gift boxes. I use Command strips to hang them. They don't hurt the surface of the wall and you just pull them off right off when it's time to remove them," Reed said while emphasizing that decorating for the holidays can be very cost efficient.

"I just love art. I just love to create. I see things in my head and I can't wait to create it and make it. Anything goes. It doesn't have to be perfect," said the Clarksburg native and mother of two.

Prior to beginning her job at the mansion three years ago, Reed was an interior designer and homebuilder.

"I adore what I do. This door opened and I walked through it. You have to enjoy life. You only have one. Do what you want in life. Don't look back and regret not trying something that interests you, is the advice I give my children," Reed said, speaking like a true elf-in-chief.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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