TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL D. WILSON
For Marianne Kane, Christmas is not so much a holiday or a season as a way of life. Visit her Gorham farmhouse at any time of year and you will find at least eight artificial Christmas trees, ranging from 2 to 7 feet tall and decorated according to themes. Come November, a half dozen or more Tannenbaums join the year-rounders that are too tricky (or that Kane is too fond of) to dismantle, imparting the glittery abundance and Rockwellian vibe of a Christmas shop.
“I guess I’ve always had some excitement about Christmas,” Kane, who’s 71 and works part-time running payroll for a lobster distributor, says with a chuckle. Growing up on Long Island in Casco Bay, her parents never told her when the holiday was approaching. “I’d just wake up in the morning and there they would be: a tree and gifts! I guess they didn’t want me to get too excited. I must have been a pain-in-the-ass little kid.”
When she had her own family, Kane and her husband embraced an annual tree-cutting tradition with their son and daughter. Then, in the late 1970s, her parents gave the children their own artificial evergreens and ornaments. From there, as they say, things snowballed. Kane began amassing faux conifers on sale, and as word of her “tree fanaticism” spread, she became the recipient of everyone’s spare Christmas décor, fueling increasingly elaborate displays.
How many trees does she have now? “That’s a question without an answer,” Kane says. This time of year, there are pointy firs on a windowsill, the mantel, in the dining table centerpiece, and lining the streets of the Christmas village. Then there are the 15-plus themed trees, which, in recent years, have included a white “My Fair Lady Tree” with black-and-white garland and a sequined top-hat crown; a “Seacoast Tree” with nautical ornaments, a rocking dory stand, and a yellow-slicker skirt; a “Hydrangea Tree” with glass prisms and giant blooms; a “Family Tree,” with framed photographs of seven generations of kin; and a “Tree Tree,” with, yes, dozens of tiny tree ornaments. What you won’t find anymore is a real Tannenbaum. “Once I started putting up all these trees, well, it takes so darn long,” Kane says. “The live tree just didn’t cut it.”