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Decking the Halls

I’m an empty nester, for REAL this time. My son is eight + hours away, and even though I have enjoyed caring for his 85 pound German shepherd for the past 6 months, I delivered him to my son’s new apartment in Orlando. I am single, so it is truly just me left here in the nest.

I was asked last night if I had decorated my empty nest for Christmas this year. I did set out a few items, but as I’ll be heading back to Florida for the holidays, I kept my decorating efforts super low key. There is something very cheerful about holiday decorations, and I’m fortunate that I’m spending time in places this month that have been decorated by someone else. I’m very happy to enjoy the festiveness without having to go to extraordinary efforts to set up (or put away) my own decorations.

Recently, I visited the Walt Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge the day after the Holiday Services cast members had installed the INCREDIBLE trees and décor. If you haven’t ever stood at the base of a 60 foot lighted Christmas tree, I highly recommend you put it on your bucket list. The lobby was full of guests visiting, taking photos, smiling, laughing, and generally just being joyful. The mood was festive and electric. I stood near several of the cast members who were working that evening, and just enjoyed the ambiance.

I had stood in this same lobby back in August, and while the atmosphere was absolutely lovely, the guests seemed quieter, more subdued then. There were plenty of empty seats to set upon in the cavernous space, and more people passed through it than stayed and mingled in it. This resort is gorgeous any time of year, but there’s no denying that the addition of holiday decorations takes it too a whole new level. It is truly magical!

As a hotelier for more than twenty years, I was keenly aware that guests expected holiday décor in the hotel as soon as the last Thanksgiving leftovers had been packed away. It isn’t always easy to find the motivation to decorate then, especially if you participate in end-of-year priorities like submitting and approving the budget for the following year. I typically dreaded the process of dragging out the boxes of wreaths and ornaments. I was fortunate that there was a woman on our team who really enjoyed taking charge of the decorating. (Thank you, Erin, for being my personal holiday services team!) And while our 6 foot tree could never compete with the 60 foot beauty at the Wilderness Lodge, it made our guests and team members equally happy and joyful.

Stringing lights and draping garland in our shared spaces doesn’t guarantee an amazing travel experience, but I’m willing to bet it will lift the spirits of even the fussiest of holiday travelers. As you buzz about over the next few weeks, take time to notice cheerful background music, marvel at nutcracker collections, try to figure out how someone hung that huge wreath over the stage. If you are working, take time to gaze into the lights on the lobby tree with your guests, offer to take photos, or simply enjoy a quiet moment together. Thanks to all who create that extra holiday glow of hospitality!

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