Although Cary real estate agent Peggy Dixon decorates her home throughout the year, at Christmas she pulls out all the stops.
The expansive collection of angels, ornaments, Santas, snowmen, trees and trains is a visible expression of her love for the holiday.
“I decorate heavy,” she said.
Dixon and her husband, Don, first lived in the Triangle in the mid-’70s, but the couple has since lived all over, following his job across the country. Everywhere they lived, she tried to make Christmas pretty, she says.
But Dixon’s collection really took off when the couple returned to the Triangle, moving to Cary in 1993. Here she has found an appreciative audience including granddaughter Avery, 8, who loves to come to Grandma’s house for Christmas.
“I would buy things, and I could see where I would want to put them,” said Dixon. “Over the years it’s gotten better and better.”
Peggy Dixon usually sets up three Christmas trees: a 9-foot tree; a 7.5-foot white tree, above; and a small tree in one of the bedrooms. Often her real estate clients ask if they can take family pictures in front of one of her Christmas trees for their holiday cards. Her advice for decorating a tree is to add lots of ornaments. “The more you put on the tree, the prettier the tree becomes. You have to fill those spaces,” she says.
CM: How did the collection start?
Peggy Dixon: In the mid-’90s when we moved to Cary, you didn’t see a lot of nice African-American pieces. So when I started seeing them, I would buy them.
I love Santa Claus, and I love angels. My friends knew that I liked those ornaments, so they would give them to me as gifts. We would buy these pieces for each other because they were beautiful.
When you are young, you buy ornaments you can afford. Now that I’m older, I value a beautiful ornament. I like looking at an ornament that is timeless, one that will last. I am collecting items that will be passed down to my daughter and granddaughter.
Left: Dixon says you can often use pieces of your existing decor during the holidays. This little girl is not an angel, above, but add some lights and her red dress fits right in.
Right: Angels are displayed throughout Dixon’s home year-round, although those dressed in red take center stage at the holidays. “I love all my angels,” she says. “I give people angels as gifts, and I tell them: ‘This angel is to watch over you.’”
CM: How does decorating the house get you in the holiday spirit?
PD: I just love Christmas. I know what Christmas means — Jesus coming and dying for me. When I see the lights at Christmas time, it’s so peaceful and joyful to me. I don’t care if anyone else sees it. I can decorate the tree and sit in my living room looking at it, and just be so at peace.
When I start thinking about decorating, talking about it, it gets my friends excited too. My sister always decorates heavy too, and we both love decorating for Christmas. Growing up we didn’t have a lot; my mom did the best she could with what she had.
Christmas to me is your reds, your greens, your Santas and your trains. We usually have a train around one tree, a train going around the living room coffee table, and a train in the bonus room upstairs.
Left: Visiting children love all the Santas, right, especially the ones that dance and sing. “I love to see the children be happy,” Dixon says.
Right: Even the bathroom gets a bit of the Christmas spirit. The tub is rarely used, Dixon says, so the space is perfect for a Santa and an angel. Red towels and a candle complete the holiday vignette.
CM: Where do you find your decorations?
PD: Every year, I take my friends and my clients to Watkins Flowers of Distinction in Raleigh because they decorate! When you go in the shop, you’re mesmerized because it’s so pretty. They have seven or eight trees decorated in there, and it’s gorgeous.
I asked the former owner of the shop, ‘When you go to market, can you please find African-American angels? Because you have clients who want them, and it’s not just African-American people. Lots of people want angels of color.’ So he started buying more angels.
If you’re African-American, Asian, Indian or whatever, you have to ask for what you want. We all live in different households, and your house represents who you are.
CM: Do you have any decorating tips or things you’ve learned over the years?
PD: I buy most of my ornaments on sale. That’s the key if you’re going to start a collection. You may get a few pieces at the start of the season, but after Christmas is the time to really buy.
I don’t think about collecting just at Christmas; I’m thinking about it all the time. You never know when you’ll find a piece you love or a piece that one of your friends will like. It may be June, but I’ll get it for Christmas.
My white tree, I got from Wal-Mart. One friend could not believe that I bought that tree from Wal-Mart. She couldn’t believe how pretty it was. But when you put your ornaments on it, that’s what makes the tree. The more you put on the tree, the prettier the tree becomes. You have to fill those spaces. The more the merrier!
I want to feel that it’s Christmas everywhere. I change my towels, my bedspreads and my pillows to reds. Every room is going to have a touch of red and an angel.
CM: How long does it take to decorate the whole house?
PD: Sometimes I’ll start putting up stuff a week and half before Thanksgiving, but I won’t turn the lights on, because I know it’s going to take me so long to get it done.
CM: How long to take it down?
PD: It takes me a while to pack it up. I leave my red out from Christmas through February, for Valentine’s Day. I try to get my trees down by Old Christmas, Jan. 6. If I don’t have everything down, then I won’t turn it on.
It takes so long to put it up; I think it’s sad to take it down so quickly.
CM: What does your family say about all the decorations?
PD: My daughter never liked decorating with me when she was growing up. But my granddaughter loves the decorations. She loves coming to Grandma’s house to see Christmas.
My husband has always said it’s too much! But since my grandbaby enjoys it, he enjoys it more because of the way she reacts to it. But he still says it’s too much.
My daughter will bring friends over at the holidays. She loves for her friends and their children to come see what I’ve done. I feel that it’s special to her, that I’m still doing it. She may think it’s a lot, but she still brings her friends over.
CM: How does decorating fit with your holiday tradition?
PD: There aren’t that many African-American decorations out there, but my eyes are drawn to that. I’m looking for it. And that’s how we teach our children that it’s all beautiful. I have friends who decorate a whole tree with angels — all different kinds.
It’s important to decorate your house to represent the way you are.
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