Festive feeling all year round

Christmas display planner Helen Watson.
Christmas display planner Helen Watson.
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It might be Christmas Eve, but Christmas actually started for Helen Watson on January 2 this year.

And when everyone else is thinking about taking down their Christmas tree and packing away the decorations for another year, Helen will be starting Christmas 2015.

The former florist and now garden centre director Helen Watson lives the festive season all year round.

This is Helen’s 30th year of setting up Christmas displays at Ferndale Garden Centre which her parents bought in 1982. Back then, their Christmas department was two trestle tables of tinsel and baubles and one tree.

Nowadays, Helen sources seven themes from traditional to contemporary and committed Christmas collectors have snapped up half the top end glass by mid-October. Christmas for Helen starts on January 2 when she flies out to Dusseldorf to purchase all her stock for 2015. Stock arrives from the summer and by late October, the total transformation has taken place to a winter wonderland of tinsel, trees, garlands and gifts. “It’s like Christmas shopping but 11 months earlier than for everyone else,” says Helen, 50.

“Customers think it must be awful being so early but in reality it’s a late activity from this Christmas and as it’s still so fresh in my mind, it makes it easier than remembering in March or April.”

Helen, who has just been named runner up in the retail category of Yorkshire Women in Business Awards, was born in Sheffield, went to Jordanthorpe school and grew up in Bradway on her parents’ plant nursery.

She lives near Ferndale with her second husband Richard and between them they have five children.

Last year she cooked Christmas dinner for 27 although this year will be a smaller affair “This year Ben, Josie and Ella will eat with their dad, we will spend time together in the morning and Richard’s girls, Lucy and Katy will be with their mum in Ireland.

“One year Richard and I shared Christmas dinner for just the two of us. We spent the morning visiting friends and family, drank lots of fizz then came home to walk the dogs and eat – it was lovely.”

Christmas is also a poignant time for Helen, whose brother took his life aged 22.

“It is now 29 years since, Kevin, my brother died and you do adjust to the hole in your life. It is more the fact that I know he would have loved to be with us all, to share the enjoyment of his nieces and nephews. There are always the ‘what ifs?’

“I seem to remember our first Christmas without Kevin we started new traditions so that what we had always done didn’t hurt so much. It’s hard to remember what they were now because each year has a bit of ‘new’ with new family members, new homes and new friends.

“I think I’d say to anyone facing a tough first Christmas after loss, is do something different but still don’t stop having Christmas, especially if you have others in the family to be with. If it’s with good friends and close family they won’t mind dishing out the tissues. They will probably join you.”

Helen admits she is just as obsessed as the customers are when it comes to trimming up: “My home has lit garlands and two indoor trees, one an eight-foot artificial hung with every type of decoration you can imagine, and the other a fresh Nordmann fir in the kitchen, bearing only clear cluster lights and glass icicles.

“I decorate the outdoor trees and topiary with glass icicles, too.”