Soni Styrlund and her daughters, MacKenzie and Maddi, decorate eight Christmas trees every year in their Eden Prairie family home. Soni says it all began with one tree—decorated with handmade ornaments and mementos that have special meaning. The other trees came along over time, and they all have a theme.
The music tree features silver and gold trombones and drums to celebrate the musical instruments MacKenzie and Maddi played in the school marching band. The snowman tree is festooned, white and flocked; similar to one Soni grew up with as a child. Other trees highlight Santa Bears, candy canes, and pine cones and bird houses. The dining room features the Twelve Days of Christmas tree, and a red tree in the basement is covered with playful, traditional Christmas games and toys.
If it sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. Soni says she spends a lot of time on a ladder and acknowledges some of the work is tedious and repetitive. But it's also precious family time. MacKenzie is 25 and doesn’t live at home anymore. She says putting up the Christmas decorations has always been important. “Especially when we were in high school and there was so much going on … It is time when we are just together,” MacKenzie says.
When she was younger, Maddi, 21, didn’t notice all the attention to detail Soni brought to decorating. Now, she clearly sees the extra effort. “The red tree is in the basement,” Maddi says. “The basement has red walls. The music tree is silver and gold, and the room it’s in has a lot of silver and gold in it. My mom really coordinates everything.”
Soni doesn’t just bring all this attention to Christmas. Halloween is very spooky at the Styrlund house, and Easter is big decorating event, too. “I decorate for everything,” she says.
But, of course, Christmas is a big deal in a lot of houses—including the White House. In 2016, Soni went to Washington, D.C., as one of the volunteers who decorated the White House for Christmas. A friend told her how to apply. “You write a letter saying why you should be chosen,” she says. “Then interns read the letters and pick out the ones they think the staff should read, and you get selected from there.”
Soni had to be in Washington, D.C., on Thanksgiving Day for the first meeting, and she worked on the decorations for a week. The team she was on was assigned to the Palm Room, which is adjacent to the Oval Office. “It was an amazing experience,” she says. “When we finished our room, we went into other rooms to help out. We were able to go anywhere on the first two floors.”
All the time spent decorating in the White House meant her own decorations went up late last year. But Soni came home and, according to Maddi, “She got all the decorations up in half the usual time.”
“I do this to create magic,” Soni says. “It’s about memories, and it’s about our time together. Traditions are what make life magic.”
MacKenzie says just a few years ago, a friend of hers—also in her 20s at the time—said, “If I lived at your house, I’d believe in Santa forever. Santa can be real at your house … in fact I’m sure he is.”