For Joyce and Bob Shapiro, the holiday season begins in October when they gingerly unwrap the exquisite decorations they've been collecting for decades to deck out their home across from Kottinger Community Park.
"We have two 9-foot trees in our living room," Bob said. "Each tree takes about a week to decorate so we want time to enjoy it."
Each of the sturdy trees has a theme, Joyce explained. One features the elegant keepsake blown-glass creations of Christopher Radko while the other shines with the graceful designs of Patricia Breen.
The Radko tree has the theme of Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, FAO Schwarz and Gump's, where they purchased the ornaments, the Shapiros said. The other tree has themes in different sections, including travel, Napa Valley, animals, nutcrackers and arboretums by Breen.
"Her ornaments have a lot of hand painting and they sparkle," Joyce said, explaining some are Swarovski crystal.
"I started collecting Patricia Breen ornaments in New England where we lived for a year," she recalled. "When we flew back to San Francisco, Gump's used to have this huge event and Patricia Breen was there."
On the mantel is a numbered picture, "Woodland Santa," done by Radko, and surrounded by poinsettias. They also have old Cartier Christmas cards, set in glass frames so both sides can be viewed.
The Shapiros have been married for 27 years; they each collected ornaments for years before that and have continued together. They celebrated their 25th anniversary on a river cruise along the Rhine that stopped at German Christmas markets, another great source for decorations.
"Whenever we travel, we try to buy ornaments from whatever country we are in," Bob said.
Friends vie to visit the Shapiro home when the decorations are in place, and Joyce and Bob enjoy entertaining. Many times they've offered a dinner at their festive holiday home for eight to 10 people at fundraising auctions for nonprofit groups including Las Positas College, the YMCA and Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation.
Last year when everyone was quarantining no one came to see the ornaments, although the Shapiros entertained on the front lawn Christmas Day and left the front doors open so the holiday vision was on display.
They also enjoy evenings at home with just each other, a glass of wine and their glowing works of seasonal art.
"Every night we marvel at the trees," Bob said. "We look at the ornaments, and remember where they came from."
At the end of the season, their son helps pack away the decorations in the big storage room upstairs. Joyce expressed relief that they aren't on display long enough to collect dust.
"But," Bob said, "it's sad when the trees come down. We miss them."