Decking the halls

NANAIMO – Staff at Dover House seniors’ facility create Christmas wonderland.

Lorraine Tanti’s special talent for arranging large

Lorraine Tanti’s special talent for arranging large

It takes about a week for staff at Dover House to deck the halls for the Christmas season.

The annual tradition of filling the facility with Christmas cheer started in 1996 when owner Judy Parsons opened the residence for seniors with cognitive and mobility challenges caused by stroke or dementia.

Each common area in the building has an elaborate display of Christmas teddy bears, nutcrackers and other seasonal icons. Every resident’s door gets a garland of poinsettias, pine cones and gold ribbon.

The resulting displays are a collaboration between Parsons and Lorraine Tanti, facility support staff worker and head decorator.

“She purchases everything – I’ve been learned by the best – and I put it all together,” Tanti said. “I’m allowed to have free rein.”

The decorations chosen are traditional, warm and comforting.

Parsons is partial to poinsettias, which she uses as the basis for the colour and style of decorations throughout the home. Hall-decking was completed in time for the facility’s Christmas open house which hosted more than 100 visitors Nov. 29.

Dover House has 24 residents. With staff running errands and caring for patients, there’s a lot of activity in building, but the elaborate Christmas displays in the hallways and common areas are carefully designed so they don’t interfere with traffic moving through the building, courtyard and gardens.

“I have to say, for all the decorations that we have around, I could count on one hand, how many displays have been disrupted,” Parsons said. “It’s amazing.”

Tanti’s tour of the facility goes through the Christmas village, rooms with colour themes of gold, green and glitter, nativity scenes, country themes and a display of more than 40 nutcrackers of various sizes, colours, uniforms and expressions.

Tanti moved one nutcracker to the back of the crowd because of his fierce, angry appearance.

“These are fun,” said Tanti. “There’s an angry one. That’s the Mad Hatter one, I guess.”

Because the home has military veterans in residence, no Christmas decorations go up until after Remembrance Day.

Rita Stein, whose sister is a resident, said the effect is like a five-star hotel decorated for the season.

“They just put in so much love and effort,” Stein said. “They decorate for every occasion.

“This is all done by staff. They don’t have somebody come in and do it. It’s all done from their heart.”