In the quiet, sleepy town of Cambridge, Md., one house comfortably situated along Hambrooks Boulevard is hard to miss during the holiday season.
Deeply rooted in 40-year-old Christmas tradition, the front yard bordering the Choptank River is adorned with decades-old plywood cutouts of 46 different Charlie Brown, The Grinch and biblical characters. Inside the home, rooms filled with more than 2,000 Christmas ornaments dangling from the ceiling, a 100-year-old nativity scene and nine elaborately decorated Christmas trees are enough to make people believe Santa himself lives there.
“We’ve been doing it, needless to say, most of my life,” Jane Flowers, the home’s owner, told ABCNews.com.
It all started with Jane’s father, Tom Flowers, who even after his passing in 2005 remains one of the most well respected people of Dorchester County. A retired school teacher, county councilman and legendary storyteller, Flowers, who referred to himself as “The Old Honker,” meant a lot of things to a lot of different people.
One of those things was being the man known for cutting no corners when it came to Christmas decorating.
“Dad was one of those people, everything had to be balanced,” Jane Flowers said. “If you had a big ball on this side, you had to have a big ball over there, and it kind of exploded. We have the cheap balls up on the ceiling right next to the expensive balls. People walk in the front door and their jaws kind of drop.”
The house was so ornately decorated for so many years that the community came to expect the annual spectacle. And after Flowers’ mother and father both passed, she knew she had no choice but to uphold the tradition.
“I have a lot of people that walk by and thank me for continuing to do it. When mom and dad passed on, I debated continuing to do it. And I just thought Christmas wasn’t Christmas without it,” Flowers said. “What do you do with the 30-something packing boxes for Christmas? I decided for me, I had to do it.”
And the residents of Cambridge, along with countless passersby, are very grateful she did.
“I have my mother’s manger scene that she had when she was a little girl. If my mother was alive, she would be 90. It was in the family when she born. Baby Jesus is wax. It amazes me that baby Jesus has lasted so long being made of wax,” she said.
She claims photographs of the festive scene don’t do it justice.
“It’s a pretty amazing site, but it’s more impressive in person,” she said.
For Flowers, the decorating is second nature. She grew up in this home, watched her father decorate it for years, and has continued to add to the collection herself.
“It’s the way we’ve always done it. We have all these wood characters out front. We have Charlie Brown, and the Grinch and Mary and Joseph and all the characters. The story goes he laid us on the board and drew around us and cut us out as angels,” Flowers said. “It’s fun to sit out there on the front window and watch the cars go by. We have kids that go by every night and wave at them.”
But one night in 2010, one onlooker took her appreciation for Flowers’ display one step further by putting pen to paper, something Flowers has cherished since she received the surprise letter under her door. The visitor had scribbled a note on a piece of yellow legal pad paper for her to find when she arrived home from a visit to her brother’s house.
“Dear Christmas Spirit Friends,” the note reads. “For 21 years I have driven past your house a few days before Christmas in order to view your lights & character display. This year, 2010, it seems there are fewer lights in the area & fewer people remembering the reason for the season. I simply wanted to say thank you for lighting up my night. Your Christmas character display is the reason I do this every year. Thank You!”
Although the woman signed her name, to this day Flowers is unsure if she’s ever met this woman, or if it’s just a generous stranger.
“I still keep this sheet of yellow legal pad paper. When you get that stuff in your door, it’s pretty cool,” she said.
And although she knows her Christmas decorations are elaborate, Flowers remains modest, denying her display could be compared to Chevy Chase’s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. She does, however, have one rule of thumb she follows during the holiday season: If it doesn’t move, decorate it.