Christmas 2020 arrives early in northern Rhode Island


BURRILLVILLE/NORTH SMITHFIELD – People have rushed to bring in the holiday season a bit early in 2020.

In a year when authorities have asked for nearly non-existent Thanksgiving celebrations, prohibited big festivities and restricted restaurant capacity to curb the spread of a virus, it seems we could use a little cheer, and a holiday glow began emanating from many porches and lawns across northern Rhode Island as soon as early November.

The warmer weather this month has also been a motivator.

“I’ve been driving around and lots of people are taking advantage,” said Michelle Deschamps, vice president of Leeway True Value in North Smithfield.

Right after the bitter snowstorm on Halloween weekend, when milder weather moved in, Christmas decorations were hauled out from basements and attics to the front yard, or new decorations were purchased. People would rather decorate in 55 degrees than in 30 degrees, says Deschamps.

Those who, “are going to have to stay home for Christmas,” are working to make the holidays as traditional as possible, Deschamps said.

The weather encourages people to decorate despite the weirdness of this holiday season. Decorating brings “a little bit of normalcy,” Deschamps noted.

Decorating and shopping for Christmas gifts has been underway at Leeway since October. Deschamps, with her customers’ well-being in mind, got the store ready early, “so they don’t feel like there’s a crowd,” she said.

Customers so far are purchasing useful gifts such as yeti cups and power tools. Bird feeders are another gift. Deschamps notes that observing birds’ beauty can be a good way to keep occupied.

The aisles at Leeway also offer plenty of festive options for this year’s celebrations.

Another local business, The Village Barn Country Store & Antiques in Mapleville is brimming with holiday charm.

“I love Christmas, so anything Christmas,” pleases decorator Kathy Brand, co-owner of the store with spouse Kevin Brand, both natives of the area.

The Brands are celebrating their tenth year in business.

Gnomes are really popular this year, Kathy said, noting the trends change with, “some years snowmen, some years Santas.”

When decorating for the holidays or any day, “don’t be afraid to mix and match. The more you mix, the more it looks country. It doesn’t have to match,” Kathy said.

The Village Barn also offers one-of-a-kind furniture and other products created by Kevin Brand.

“My husband makes a lot of farmer’s tables,” Kathy said.

He also crafts jelly cabinets, shelves – and other one-of-a kind pieces.

His work is, “selling extremely well,” said Kathy.

“He makes a lot of stuff out of objects, marries the pieces.” she said, noting that the result is unique and, “not a cookie cutter piece.”

Psychologists might agree with keeping occupied in these strange days, and that decorating helps people feel normal.

Experts seem to have indirectly predicted people would take action to maintain holiday traditions and even make merry as much as possible in the lockdown. A study of behavior shows human beings apparently fare better in quarantine when given the choice to voluntarily stay home and when staying home is a way of acting altruistically towards others.

According to the pre-Covid study titled, “The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence,” published February 2020 in the medical journal The Lancet, “voluntary quarantine is associated with less distress and fewer long-term complications,” and, “public health officials should emphasize the altruistic choice of self-isolating.”

Whether acting out of altruism, or for something else such as stimulating the economy, those with the means can flaunt extravagant decorations.

Eye-popping, wallet-busting Christmas decorations according to luxury experts include a “Luxury Candle with a Necklace,” for $5,000; a “Song-Playing Reindeer, 65,″ for $6,920; “Crystal Wrapping Paper,” for $7,549; and a Swarovski Tree Stand for $14,000. The site also feature the “Most Expensive Christmas bauble,” for $136,000; “Diamond-Studded Christmas Star,” for $950,000; a “Gold Santa Figurine,” for $1.6 million; “Preserved Roses Mini Christmas Tree,” for $1.8 million; “Solid Gold Christmas Tree,” for $1.95 million; and “Diamond Christmas Wreath,” for $4.6 million.

Less pricey but still ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars are vintage Christmas decorations, including German pear-shaped Kugel ornaments; Mini Putz village DIY sets, and Ceramic Christmas trees, reports House Beautiful out of the UK.

It seems for many, no price is too steep to create and share something joyful this holiday season.

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