For the Windhams, Christmas is all about the little things
Stately is how most would describe the home of Al and Cindy Windham.
With its symmetrical design and classic proportions, the Georgian-style home is not only timeless on the exterior, its conventional floor plan complements the collections and antique furnishings displayed on the interior.
And while the couple leans in the direction of a more traditional decorating style, when Christmas comes around a bit of the whimsy comes out.
Angels fly around the Christmas tree and Santa hats are worn by just about every sculpture in the home.
“I started decorating with the hats after seeing a picture in a magazine of a statue wearing a Santa hat,” Cindy said, adding the smaller hats she uses come from Christmas ornaments.
Both active in the community, Al and Cindy were originally from Edwards and Marks, respectively, and moved to Vicksburg in 1984.
They raised their three daughters — Shelton, Mary Ruth and Sarah Louise — in Vicksburg and have since welcomed two sons-in-law and four grandchildren to the family.
With its red brick facade, Cindy said, the inspiration for their home came after a visit to Williamsburg, Va.
Al, who is an ear nose and throat doctor in Vicksburg, did his residency in North Carolina, and while there, the couple took a trip to the historic town.
They fell in love with the Georgian architectural style homes, which ultimately made the perfect backdrop for the couple’s period pieces.
Cindy said the couple enjoys antiquing, and assumed they acquired their interest by osmosis.
Each grew up in homes with antiques, she said, and many times both joined their mothers on antique shopping trips.
“Often against our will,” Cindy said, but admits it was probably this early exposure that fostered their appreciation.
“We enjoy all types of antique shopping — consignment stores, antique shops, even online shopping,” she said.
In addition to their antique finds, the couple has also acquired furniture from the homes of their parents and grandparents.
“The Victorian furniture in the master bedroom was purchased by Al’s grandfather in New Orleans in 1932,” Cindy said, while the ink well and Victorian cane collections were from Cindy’s mother.
While the couple’s antique furnishings in the home are striking, one can’t help but take note of their many collections.
“I’ve long admired homes decorated by Tulsa interior designer, the late Charles Faudree, and many of his projects feature collections of metal dogs, statues of Napoleon and groups of prints,” Cindy said.
It was this appreciation of Faudree’s work, Cindy said, that inspired Al and her to start their own collections, which include Parisian busts, Victorian fish sets, spelter and bronze statues and metal dogs.
“Looking for additions to our collections has made antiquing more fun,” she said.
Another of the Windham’s collections is their papier-mache angel ornaments.
Shortly after the couple married, Cindy said, her mother gave them 20 angels to hang on their Christmas tree.
The couple has added to their collection and now has more than 75 angels, some of which were given to them by church friend June Boyd.
“She knew that we loved angels,” Cindy said, and when the Boyds decided to downsize, she gave the Windhams several from her collection, which had come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
While most of the angels hang on the tree together with gold embellished ornaments, a few seem to magically fly around the top of the tree, making for a spectacular sight.
“Al started suspending the angels above the tree after we saw a flying elf in a Dallas shop window,” Cindy said.
Christmas décor also includes ceramic Santas, which were hand-painted by Al’s sister, Kay Turner.
They are displayed on the couple’s breakfast room table.
Decorating at the Windham house does not begin before Dec. 1. While it is a joint effort, Cindy said, “Al says I collect ideas and then turn to him to implement them.”
Cindy did, however, give Al total credit for decorating the Christmas tree and said it is a process that takes him several evenings.
A live tree is used in the home, and Cindy said it is purchased during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The grandchildren are usually here, so the day after (Thanksgiving) they enjoy going with their grandfather to pick one out,” she said.
Like all families, the Windhams have their own special family traditions, one of which is taking pictures with Santa.
Cindy said the tradition began with their oldest child, and from then on each Christmas picture of the girls was taken with the jolly old elf.
Most of the time this happened at malls, but if a live Santa was not available, Cindy said, they made do with a stuffed one.
This tradition was not as popular when the girls were in their teens.
They would grumble about having to take a picture with Santa, Cindy said, but now they love looking at all the pictures their mother displays going up the stairway of the home and reminiscing about their childhood days.
This year will mark the 41st picture taken of the Windham sisters. Shelton and Sarah Louise, who both have children, decided to make it part of their own family tradition, too.
On Christmas Eve the family attends Crawford Street United Methodist Church’s candlelight worship service.
It is followed by a casual dinner, which is usually barbeque from Goldies, a request from the sons-in-law.
Christmas Day begins with the little ones checking out what Santa brought followed by a formal lunch.
Cindy said she uses her Christmas china, crystal and silver, and for dessert, a Buche de Noël cake is served.
“I make it beforehand, but wait for the grandchildren to decorate it with marzipan, holly and berries,” she said.
No doubt, having their grandchildren around is something the couple cherishes.
“Our favorite thing about Christmas is having our families join us for the holiday,” Cindy said.
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