Mo Birkel said she’ll continue setting out a big Christmas decoration display for as long as she can.
When working as a custodian for Trumble Park Elementary School, Birkel said she was looking for a way to give back to the students. The children always made her posters for the holidays and picked up after themselves.
So, in the 1990s, Birkel, 78, decided to start decorating her house at 1116 Hickory Hill Road for the holidays for children who pass by.
“I thought it was gonna be fun to give to them,” Birkel said. “I think when I got started then they didn’t want me to quit.”
She started her setup with Halloween decorations and later added Christmas displays.
Over the years, she’s learned which types of decorations are easiest to set up and how to set them up to last the holidays. She opts for more traditional Christmas decorations such as nativity scenes rather than cute ones for children.
What started as something intended for others quickly become her passion.
“There’s just something exciting about it and something I’m proud of,” Birkel said.
Working completely on her own, Birkel starts putting up decorations each year on Nov. 1. Outside decorations take between three and five days, while inside takes about a week, she said.
Her set-up approach is methodical. Every decoration is organized in a labeled box. She knows exactly where each piece will go and stakes out the spots. When setting up, Birkel starts in the front of the house and works her way to the back.
She takes them down from back to front. When packing the Christmas decorations, usually 12 days after the holiday, Birkel checks every light and replaces bulbs as needed. Typically, she said she replaces 1,000 bulbs. She also looks for cords bitten by rabbits.
Since her husband Larry died in 2017, Birkel stopped putting up some of the display that was his responsibility. Now working alone, she’s continued because of the community. Many neighbors talk to her about her display and have grown to expect it.
It’s a lot of work, she said, but worth every second.
Her display has shrunk over the years. While it might not be as big as it used to be, Birkel said she’ll continue decorating until her health no longer allows.
“It’s gonna be hard one day,” Birkel said. “I just downsized here just not too long ago, and I had a tear for every box that went out this door.”