By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Imagine turning into the driveway of the local bed and breakfast, and suddenly finding yourself in the North Pole, and then Santa’s workshop as you enter the house.
While the metaphor is hyperbole, the way Liz and James Anderson have set up their Columbus-based business/home Anderson House Bed & Breakfast certainly feels that.
When turning into the driveway at 120 Columbus Road, one gets a sense of wonder often lost on adults, as the couple make sure to show their love of the Christmas season.
Right now guests can be stopped by a nutcracker guarding their door, or by Santa as he stands by his sleigh on their porch.
But it’s when one enters the house they are immersed in the Christmas spirit, as everywhere you look, decorations are quick to catch the eye.
In every nook and cranny is a piece of Christmas, as decorations ranging from candy canes, to life-size Santa statues, to holiday trees are littered throughout the house.
The Andersons don’t even know how many Santa statues are around their house, as they’ve lost count. All they know is there’s more than 300.
“We try and send the [grandkids] counting… the kids this weekend were saying there’s 350, but there’s a lot,” says Liz.
“For years and years and years, we’ve been decorating for Christmas, for our family – grandchildren, and nieces and nephews,” says Liz. “For years we’d put on a show for everybody.”
Liz explains they welcome a large group of visitors every year on Christmas Eve, and will serve everyone a lot of food and drinks, but there’s no presents.
“One year the kids even asked me, “How come you don’t buy any presents?’” she says. “I said, ‘Well, we could but then we wouldn’t have Christmas Eve the way we do it.’ I then asked which they would prefer, and they said they don’t want presents.”
For them, it’s just about getting the family together, says James.
“We have a big enough house that we can get them all in one place, so it works well,” says Liz.
Getting everything set up takes around three weeks every year they explained.
“This year took a little longer because of the snow, and that held us up and we had to clear it to make way,” explains Liz. “We start before Halloween because it takes so long, and we like to have it done by the middle of November just to enjoy it because it takes so long.”
Liz adds she will bring everything up from the basement, while James puts it all up and she cleans behind him.
They decorate the house in stages they don’t get overwhelmed.
“I like the white and gold [around the one fireplace], it’s just so pretty, and the angel on top [of the tree], and the nativity scene is just a reminder of what Christmas is supposed to be like, and the white and gold just does seem to bring that together,” says Liz.
“I like to hang out with Santa Claus and company over there,” says James, pointing at the other fireplace. “It’s more that the traditional reds, greens and plaids are what say Christmas to me. The stone fireplace too, it’s nice to light the fire, sit there and enjoy it.”
Growing up both had different experiences with Christmas, with James quipping his childhood was “just like this” while gesturing around him.
“I think I was probably inspired by my grandparents, they built a home in the country, and I was always excited about going out there because my grandmother decorated quite nicely, and… that’s what my image of Christmas was when I was a kid, and I try to capture that now,” says James.
Looking back fondly, Liz explains her family lived near an airport, which was part of a tradition she shared with her family.
“I will always remember every Christmas Eve that red light above [the tower], my parents would always draw attention to it and say, ‘Here he comes,’ time for bed,” she fondly recalls. “But Christmas Eve wasn’t big, it was Christmas Day for our family and we’d have the big dinner at lunchtime because they were European, and we’d all be there and that’s my memory of Christmas.”
Today they share a joyful laugh at how much their family enjoys coming to visit them on Christmas.
“Some Christmas Eves we’ll have up to 70 people in here,” says James. “It was funny, my brother came one day when there was nobody here and went, ‘Holy cow, do you decorate this much every year? I didn’t realize because when the house is full of people you don’t really get to see everything.’”
Liz explains while they still love Christmas they are trying to slow down in recent years, as their children are getting older and have their own families.
“This will be the first year that they’re not coming [however],” explains Liz. “They’ve got little ones of their own and they want them to be at their own home to open gifts… They’re at that age, and you have to build your own memories, but we’re going to miss them.”
The bed and breakfast made quite a name for itself, as they couple were recently featured on HGTV.
“That was fun, I like stuff like that,” Liz says with a laugh. “Except now, after watching it, they’ve put us in a league with way bigger fish than us.”
James explains some of the stuff they had to do with the show was over the top, but they were honoured.
“But like I said, now I’ve got to think of ways to beef up our act,” says Liz.
She also notes they added a bit more to the house to beef it up, but even when the decorators came in the house, they were at a loss of what else to add.
“When the decorators walked in they went, ‘They want us to make this more Christmasy? How are we supposed to do that?’” she says. “But they filled [the dining room table] with candy to make it look like the elves’ dinner table.”
She says their family was very excited for them when they saw the show.
“Two of our oldest granddaughters, they cried, just because it was so sentimental for them,” says Liz.
They said friends they hadn’t seen in almost 20 years called them up after seeing the show, asking if they can see the house.
“We don’t mind at all, please do come,” she says.
“My last stint was at the Royal Ashburn doing weddings there, and there was a lot of people who had to go to [[out of the area] for some place to stay if they were attending the wedding, and I said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we try it,’” she explains.
She says they talked about it for some time, but in the end, “talk is cheap.”
After her sister passed away at the age of 46, Liz said she wanted to take the chance.
“That was the kick we needed,” she explains. “We just realized how short life is. If we are going to do it, we’d better do it now.”
They started off slow, as they weren’t sure if they’d like it or not, but it turns out they really enjoy it.
“We’ve actually gained hundreds of friendships with whom we still keep in touch,” she says. “Germany’s actually our biggest country where we have all kinds of friends, and Holland. They keep coming back every couple of years. We’ve got two girls who come back every year, and then of course we’re on Facebook and we keep in touch.”
For those interested in staying at Anderson House Bed & Breakfast, there are two rooms with double beds which run for $105 per night, a larger room with a queen bed at $125, and the bridal suite is $160.
They can also be found on Facebook, and for more information visit andersonhousebb.com