The More the Merrier: Christmas in Bay Head

An avid collector of all things fun and festive, this creative homeowner transforms her spacious Victorian into a Christmas wonderland.

The entryway of Pat Lyons’ spacious Victorian displays one of seven tabletop trees she places throughout the house.
Photo by Laura Moss

Pat Lyons has a thing for collecting. Snowmen and Santas, snow globes and ornaments—you name it, if it’s holiday-themed, she probably collects it. “I’ve spent more than 30 years collecting,” says Lyons. “I’m big on holidays.”

Lyons lives in a spacious circa 1899 Victorian just off the ocean in Bay Head. The house was pretty bare bones when she moved there in 1996 with her late husband, Jerry. “There was no heat when we first moved in,” says Lyons. But with a little TLC (and the addition of heat), the house became a home.

The mother of three grown children—daughters Laureen and Donna and son Jerold—Lyons loves putting her home to use as a year-round focal point for her large brood, which includes six granchildren. “This house is a big gathering place,” she says.

Lyons and her husband especially enjoyed hosting the family at Christmas-time. When Jerry died three years ago, Lyons continued the tradition, adding friends to the celebration. “For Christmas, it’s always the more the merrier,” she says.

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The holiday gives Lyons the opportunity to express her creative side. A retired elementary art teacher, she spends nearly a full week lugging box after box of collectibles down from the third floor storage area.
Lyons moves things around each year, but she always puts up seven small tabletop trees, each with its own theme. One tree is all Santas, another all reindeer. One is all white; another all hearts. “I keep that one up through Valentine’s day,” says Lyons.

In a house with two fireplaces, Lyons has the benefit of two mantels to decorate. One she adorns with Santas and the other with dozens of snowmen, all different, all collected over the years. “I try to look for things that are out of the ordinary,” Lyons says. “I like bargains. I go to antique shows, flea markets.”

Lyons has also collected hundreds of snow globes, including some vintage ones, the kind that would have been purchased from old-time 10-cent stores. “I’ve always tried to be selective when I buy pieces,” Lyons explains. “It doesn’t need to be precious, but it does need to make me happy.”

Lyons also collects paintings, mostly by local artists, whom she enthusiastically supports. She has even painted some herself. Artistic talent runs in the family: Laureen is a photographer, Donna an elementary school art teacher, and each of the six granddaughters displays a creative side. “We have a strong female component,” Lyons jokes, “and everyone is artistic.”

Superstorm Sandy did a number on the town of Bay Head, virtually canceling Christmas 2012 for locals like Lyons. Her home flooded just enough that the HVAC system beneath the house needed to be replaced, and the ground-level wood-plank flooring had to be sanded and refinished.

“We missed Christmas 2012 here,” Lyons says. “But really, I was very lucky.”

She came back strong for the 2013 holiday, hosting 14 for Christmas dinner. She plans to do the same this year. “It just makes me happy,” she says.

And lots of other people, too.

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