Then & Now

I just came across a 2003 photo of the courtyard – before our hotel and Bullfish Grill and all the rest – too fun not to share!  Then (2003):

This morning before opening:

What a big change in scenery!  (That’s our after-Christmas sale tent taking up the courtyard right now – the sale continues only thr0ugh Sunday.)

It’s a beautiful day in Pigeon Forge, and we’re going to have a beautiful weekend, so come and see us.  And, if you happen to live in the area and are at home between 4 and 5 pm this afternoon, tune it to WBIR TV 10 for Live at 5 at 4 – they filmed a little story with us this week.  We’re all looking forward to seeing it today.

Happy New Year – and we wish all our readers and customers and families many, many blessings in 2012!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Ugly Christmas Sweaters!

We had the opportunity priviledge thrill of hosting Ugly Christmas Sweater Night for the Knoxville Ice Bears last week – and I can prove it!  Prepare to be .. underwhelmed?  Is underwhelmed a word??

Brilliant move – turn an ugly garden sweater into a Christmas prize with the right turtleneck and a jaunty Christmas tree hat.

This gold-and-green wonder was actually the prize winner of the night!

As you’ll see, more than a few men were willing to appear in a wife’s-mother’s-mother-in-law’s ugly sweater.  Points for the poinsettia embellishment!

Poor girl, confused ugly sweater night with crazy pants night!  That’s not til February, dear.

A sweater pattern composed of various doors, including an elevator door?  GENIUS!  I’m not sure what makes this ugly.  (Kidding!  I’m kidding!)

I hope Grandma doesn’t catch me in this!

Chess Club or Cheerleaders?  You decide.

A two-part entry: notice the dove on her shoulder.

And notice the dove poop on her back.  Bold move.

Own it, baby!

I’m not sure this is a first for these guys .. just sayin’.

 Snaps for coordinating the mock turtleneck with Mom’s 3/4 sleeve sweater!

 Mad glue-gun skills with the red garland – so evenly placed!


Extremely Honorable Mention: This playa’ added photos of the Ice Bears team to her adornments!  How was she not the winner?! 



We’re going bowling after ice hockey!


Yes, there are still more to come….how about this hand-painted creation:

She even brought the gingerbread man!

Just off the plane from Aspen.

Dontcha think they should have swapped sweaters?

My personal favorite – look at that arts-and-crafts touch with the braided necktie.  A truly original touch!

So, no judgement, but that’s a whole lotta ugly!  Everyone had a lot of fun – and I’m sure I didn’t even get pictures of all the contestants.  I heard there was also a hockey match that night .. and the Ice Bears won!  Congrats to the team!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

The Inn at Christmas

I was at The Inn for a meeting this morning and took a few pics of our 2011 decorations – in purple, red, and gold this year.  Looks like we are very ready for the Big Day – and we’re full through the weekend.  If you can’t stay with us, at least you can enjoy the view!

I almost made it around the corner – just as Santa was disappearing into his house after chiming the hour.

Even a drain pipe can be beautiful at Christmas!

And I leave you with a photo of my favorite spot – the bench by the pond.  Even though we are right on the parkway, this spot manages to be serene and quiet and restful, always.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Letters to Santa

Just a few to finish off the season!

Dear Santa,
We would like to have Jaelin, Parker and Lexi be on the “GOOD” list.  If you do visit us, can you please bring us the following items.
For Jaelin, “(a series of unintelligible hash marks, with maybe a Z, D, J, and W)”
For Parker – “I am thinking.”
For Lexi: – “Beanie Boos, Monster High, pengeuin iglube (sic).”

Dear Santa,
Our names are James, David, Allen, & Kaleb (names changed).  We are brothers in foster care & we are so excited to have a visit from Santa for the first time!  I hope to see your reindeer and feed them carrots!  My mom says you will know where we live now and won’t forget us.  You can bring us anything you want to!  We just love toys because we never had any new ones!

Dear Santa:
I want a batman with a big house.  Everything you have.
I love you,

Dear Santa,
I’d love some locks and keys for Christmas.  I love you!

Dear Santa,
How are you.  I have been sick.  I just go from one thing to another different (thing).  People have been praying for me.  Do you think you can find me where I live?  I live near Bardstown, the next little town over.
By by,

Santa has mailed and e-mailed (hey, he’s a 21st century dude!) all his letters back to the kids – all those that will arrive in time for Christmas – thanking them for their thoughts and good wishes and love.  As always, Santa reminds us to remember the reason for the season, and to keep saying “Ho Ho Ho!”

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Misty Morning

I just wanted to share a couple of pictures with you – they are not called the “Smoky” Mountains for nothing!  Leaving for church early Sunday morning, I was captivated by the mists rising in my little valley.  Even as I sat in the car, the mists were shifting and lifting – it was beautiful.

Do you see the chimney smoke rising on the other side of the valley?

It looked as if a painter had lightly stroked the scene with a brushed dipped in white.  What a beautiful start to the day!

(No, you’re not seeing a UFO in the last photo.  The grayish teardrop shape is not an alien craft hurtling over the range .. it is actually a drop of pine tar on my windshield.  I parked under the trees at my parents’ house on a hot summer day – and this was my reward.  It won’t come off for anything.  Well, except maybe a bottle of pine tar remover.  Which I should use on my hood, really.  And thank you for not mentioning the leaves on the lawn which should have been mulched already.)

Have a wonderful week – it’s finally Christmas week!  I hope we don’t get so busy that we fail to take time out to be thankful for the blessings we enjoy every day and for those to come.

Be blessed, my friends.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Angel Mischief

November 5, 2011

The corner where The Inn, the restaurant, and the store come together features mannequin-like carolers, their air-brushed faces frozen in concert, holding their songbooks.  They are grouped together facing the street, standing in their winter clothes.  Today I slipped in amongst them, standing stock still, with my feather wings and gossamer garb.  A group of visitors was approaching the corner to cross the street, paying no attention to the silent choir.  When they came close, I stepped out and said “hello!”  They all started laughing loudly, reacting to the unexpected.  How fun!  Now I’m occasionally doing this for the traffic stopped at the light on the corner.  Surprise!

Inside the store, one of my favorite things to do is to “hide” behind a free-standing display of merchandise.  Standing still, I blend in from one side while people look at the music boxes, floral arrangements, and ornaments in a row from the other side.  Then they see my face or I’ll wave at them, they realize I am “real” and have a good laugh!

As people enter the store, there is a large white tree draped with lights.  There is a contest to see if anyone can guess how many lights are on the tree.  As customers slowly gaze upwards, concentrating on estimating a number, sometimes they will see me looking back at them from my perch halfway up the stairs behind the tree!  Sometimes someone will spot me first, then stand back and wait to see if the others see me or often they will point out the half-hidden angel above  them.  They all seem surprised and delighted!  I love my job.

It IS a job.  Costumes can be hot and cumbersome.  I must constantly and unobtrusively hold the wings with one hand so they won’t fall awry and to guide them through the store without knocking down the fabulous displays.  Knowing how and when to pose effectively for pictures can be trying, and often the requests for pictures come one right after another, very quickly.  Sometimes I am bombarded.  When it’s slower, I’ll offer to take pictures of the entire group with their camera, which is appreciated.  (I’m a fairly good photographer.)

When I wave, it’s not the unfeeling, automatic, mechanical wave of the person holding the pizza signs out by the curb.  I single out guests and look them in the eye until they wave back or at least smile (which is usually almost immediately).  My goal is for them to come away with a little bit of that feeling of having been “touched by an angel.”

I rarely take my scheduled breaks – I love what I am doing and feel that I should be present when the crowds are there.  I have great stamina, relatively comfortable shoes, and a strong constitution.  And some functions are a bit tricky while wearing wings and flowing, sequined sleeves…

~Joy the Angel

Book Signing this Weekend!

Children’s author Timothy Penland, with 11 published titles, visits Christmas Place this Saturday, December 17th, to sign his book “The True Night Before Christmas.”

He wrote his poem in 1999, and dedicated it to his first granddaughter on the occasion of her first Christmas.  Several years later, that granddaughter, then nine-year-old Savannah, drew illustrations for the story when Timothy decided to publish it.  It is a retelling in poem form of the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus.

Timothy has been writing children’s stories and curriculum for over 20 years, and has worked as a teacher, small business owner, and on the staff of several churches in western North Carolina, where he lives with his family.

The signing will be in the store from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, and if you can’t be here, let us have one signed for you and ship it to you after the event – just order a copy online (click on the picture above) or call Guest Services.

We think this is a marvelous heirloom item to share with your children and grandchildren each Christmas, and pass down through the family.

Come this Saturday and meet the author – perhaps he’ll be persuaded to read the story for us while he is here!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. This weekend is also your last opportunity of the year to meet the fine art painter R.J. McDonald, and have him sign and personalize one of his famous Santa prints for you and your family!  He’ll be here from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Letters to Santa – the week before Christmas!

The week-before-Christmas edition, selected letters.

A little blackmail:

“Dear Santa,
I will be good if I can get a singing doll and a doll house.  I will do what Mom says.
Love, Megan”

Try reaching out to The Mrs.:

“To: Santa,
I would like a iPad that they have at Big Lots.  I love you.
PS. Tell Mrs. Claus I said I love her too.
Love you, Maggie”

Leave nothing to the possibility of mistaken selection:

And a few that we wish we had the power to fulfill!

“Dear Santa,
Wheelchair, glasses, washing machine.

“Dear Santa,
Bring my dad home safe from Kansas so I can have a good Christmas.  Thanks, Santa!
Love, Taylor”

“Dear Santa,
I have been really good this year.  This is my first Christmas.  I spent the first 102 days in the hospital.  I arrived 8 weeks early.  This year I would like Einstein movies & a big wagon & lots of love to continue to get healthy.
Thank you, Santa.
Love, Garrett (8 months old)”

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Santa is here!

We’ve been getting lots of calls about Santa’s schedule before Christmas, so here’s the plan:

  • He is here Thursday, Sunday & Monday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • He is here Friday & Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • He is up north, tending to the workshop and the reindeer team on Tuesday & Wednesday.
  • Update:  On Christmas Eve, he’ll be here from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  As you know, it’s a busy night ahead for Santa!

We sure miss him when he takes is North Pole vacation every year!

Have you decided if you’re going with naughty or nice this year?  There may still be time to choose…

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Have you seen the Angel?

We’ve been blessed by visits from an angel this season, and I’d like to share some of her experiences with you, in her own words.

“October 24, 2011

-My first day as an angel…..Kristy, another employee and I are talking when I ‘feel’ someone staring at me. I turn and a lone woman sitting on a bench inside the store is watching me intently. I am drawn to her. “Excuse me,” I say to my companions and walk in her direction. 

Introducing myself, I ask if she’s been ‘touched by an angel recently.’ She takes my hand, almost gratefully, but seems to be having trouble speaking and has tears in her eyes. Another woman, her sister, appears and tells me that they have both just recently lost another beloved sister. They tell me that Christmas Place was the departed sister’s all-time favorite store to visit and that this third sister collected angels. They said that seeing me there was almost a sign, for them, that everything was all right….

I have a  Masters Degree in Educational Psychology and some experience in grief counseling but more importantly, I have the Holy Spirit.  I spoke quietly with the two women, who left smiling. I hope I helped….

 -One of my favorite things to do is talk to children. The littlest ones who might be somewhat afraid of Santa don’t seem to be afraid of me and many will eagerly approach me as they might a Disney princess. Some will break free of their parents to run and hug me. Some will stop dead in their tracks as they spot me. One little boy continued walking behind the adults but his eyes were glued to me. As the adults stopped, he failed to notice and ran into them. I suppressed a giggle and waved to him from my position on the landing.

Sometimes I’ll offer folks a fluffy, white feather and I’m often asked to pose for a picture with a child or children. At times, I’ll get down to their level and ask, wide-eyed, if they’re angels too. Some will absolutely assure me that they are indeed. Often a nearby parent will beg to differ.

I also enjoy the teens. The teen-age years are such a roller-coaster, often involving way more questions than answers. So many adopt a jaded and world-weary attitude at such a young age that I worry about them. But I have been able to ‘engage’ most, through humor, direct eye contact and of course, the miracle of Christmas itself. Christmas Place celebrates the joy of the season all year long and that spirit seems to permeate and penetrate even the most hardened souls.”

Have you seen our angel?  I don’t have a picture of her .. but I have more stories to tell.  Stay tuned!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place