The Herald Bulletin

December 21, 2013

Decorations with spiritual meanings

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

---- — FRANKTON — While many homeowners add a few decorations to their living room in anticipation of the Christmas season, Pat Barnes clears entire bookcases to make space for the holiday transformation.

Not simply content to add cheer to one room, she places seasonal items at every turn throughout her home.

“I find it so peaceful to have the Christmas lights on,” said Pat, retired Alexandria teacher of 39 years. “I love the tranquility. Many people think that winter is dreary but we can carry the light of God with us and be the hope that people need.”

In the living room, snowmen on blue backgrounds reign supreme. A tall, full tree covered in blue-and-white ribbons, ornaments and lights graces the space.

“I like snowmen and the blue is indicative of the cold,” she said. “When we went to Alaska, we could look down into the crevasses of glaciers and they looked blue. The ice has that blue tinge to it.”

Each year the tree finds a new spot in the room. Rather than setting it up in the same corner or in front of the same window, she moves it around to create a different look and a new flow to the room.

“I love the snow,” she said with a smile. “Snow gets blamed for winter problems, but it’s the wind and the ice that cause them. The snow isn’t a problem. When it would snow, my kindergarten students would run to the windows and look out. I love that excitement.”

She enjoys it to the point that she even makes a small snowman during the first snowfall each year and keeps it in the freezer to enjoy on snowless winter days.

Many of the ceramic and stuffed snowmen sitting around the room are gifts or handmade crafts by her (now grown) children or former students. And she can tell the story behind each and every one.

“I’m the historian and recorder of the family,” she added. “I’m hoping my kids will keep putting up some of the decorations after I’m gone and I hope the grandchildren will remember and talk about how much their grandmother loved Christmas.”

A book as tradition

One of her Christmas traditions began after a friend bought her a book titled "The Family Christmas Book" that supplied blank pages with prompts to record memories for 25 years of holiday fun. She recently filled the last page. By reading the stories to her children and grandchildren every year (and showing the pictures she has taped inside), the entire family is able to relive happy times.

To her surprise, she found more copies of the book. After purchasing one for each of her children (Brady and Beth), she painstakingly rewrote all the stories by hand into their own volumes. She also supplied a blank book to each of them so they can continue the tradition with their own families.

This special book is displayed prominently in the family room on a bookshelf near the fireplace. Six stockings hang from the mantle, while three giant ones hang on the nearby shelf. One is for her only grandchild, Chelsta, one is for the child expected in May and the other is for any on the horizon.

“Thanksgiving is about blessings and being grateful and I think it’s a great holiday to lead into the season of Christmas,” she said. “We were given such a great gift at Christmas and that’s what I try to convey in my house with the decorating. My decorations aren’t expensive or new. I just want to people to see the spiritual meaning behind them.”

Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an e-mail to

Although Pat Barnes attaches a spiritual meaning to all her Christmas decorations, she does have a special spot for those that overtly represent the birth of Jesus, such as the nativity sets. Grouped together in a prominent location, they reflect the deep meaning of the holiday.