By Anne Archer
With a smile that defines joy, Linda McKeever recalls the wintry day when her daughter, Megan, then 2 years old, was standing in the hallway of their house with an open stick of butter in her hand. “Megan, are you eating butter?” Linda asked. The girl looked at her mom while she inserted her finger into the butter. Megan then placed her finger, equipped with a smear of golden goodness, into her mouth and said, “no.”
This comical memory — it’s replayed every Christmas via digitized video — is commemorated by a glass ornament resembling a genuine stick of butter. A decoration like this might sound untraditional, but for Linda and Andrew McKeever, owners of Christmas Days since 1987, it’s the perfect addition to the family tree.
Christmas Days has specialized in glass ornaments since Linda’s parents, Vi and Bill Day, opened the store in July 1969. Today, with ornaments like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wonder Bread, dreidels, slabs of bacon, unicorns (popular this year, along with sloths) and squishy cupcakes, the year-round Christmas store has developed a reputation for being the place to go for those hard-to-find curios.
“Just yesterday a woman walked in looking for a passport ornament,” Linda said with a chuckle. “I showed her the two different types we have.”
Linda’s passion for handpicking unique items has her walking through 12 floors full of Christmas decorations, plus “a ton of showrooms” every January. Her attention to detail and eye for the wacky, along with her classic interior decorating instincts, are what make visiting Christmas Days, at any time of the year, a spectacle.
Upon entering the store, you are transported to Christmas, whether it’s a sweltering July day and you’re looking for a vacation souvenir or it’s a colorful September day and you’re ready to start some serious Christmas shopping.
Around every corner, themed trees — some are covered in felt animals, some in landmarks from around the world, others in traditional baubles — stand tall like fashion models as they wait to be admired. Plump Santas from all origins — Jolly Old Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas — bake cookies, check naughty and nice lists, deliver elf-wrapped gifts and sleep in hammocks in undisclosed tropical locations.
A wall of Byers Choice Christmas carolers are dressed for winter with hand-knitted scarves wrapped tightly around their necks and bonnets tied underneath chins. Their charm and ability to conjure up a simpler time leaves the biggest bah humbug wishing he could shrink to the singer’s size and join them in a hearty round of “Deck the Halls.”
While the store is filled with almost everything imaginable that’s related to Christmas (and a few things not so traditionally Christmas, like a Willie Nelson or Dolly Parton tree ornament), it isn’t just the merchandise and displays that have kept this family-owned business open for 50 years.
“The magic of retail is having people discover,” Linda said. “I want people to have an emotional, tactile, ‘memories of Christmas’ shopping experience when they walk into the store.”
Linda glows like a bubble light when she talks about her customers. Over the years, she has enjoyed hearing stories of holiday traditions and childhood memories; memories that include trips to Christmas Days to meet the “real Santa” and to pick out an ornament. Now, these children of Christmases past are bringing their children to the store.
Playing hostess to multiple generations is a role Linda takes seriously.
“I like to have something for everyone,” she said. And this includes decorating advice, like how to properly light a Christmas tree.
“You start from the trunk of the tree and go up and down each branch, looping as you go along,” says Linda. “And, I always tell people; ‘don’t skimp on the lights.’ “
If you follow Linda’s technique, your tree becomes 3D and each ornament appears to have a spotlight shining down on it. Just walk around the store and you’ll notice how the lights, skillfully wrapped around each limb, create a sparkle like a star in a midnight sky.
Linda’s decorating advice is only the beginning of a long practice of customer service for this family-owned business.
From a colorful selection of silk, satin or burlap ribbon in a variety of prints, Linda ties bows of all sizes for all things. You buy the ribbon; she does the tying at no extra charge. And, with a hand like a steady surgeon, she personalizes your purchases that are soon to be lifelong memories.
With a store like Christmas Days, there’s no reason for Christmas to sneak up on you like a stealthy elf. You have all year to find the perfect ornament — either for you, family or friends.
Maybe that perfect ornament is a stack of pancakes or a knitted monkey wearing a ski hat. Or maybe it’s a stick of butter. Christmas Days has it all.
Anne Archer lives in Manchester, Vt. She is a regular contributor to the Manchester Journal.