Woman ‘floats’ a magical tree for Christmas
It’s Christmastime, and once again, Diane McNeil’s tree is in orbit.
For nearly 25 years, McNeil has “floated” her Christmas tree, to the delight of friends and family members. The exact methodology is known only to McNeil and a trusted assistant.
“I work a little magic and just wish it up there,” McNeil said of the artificial tree which is suspended 4 feet off the ground.
In this case, necessity was truly the mother of invention.
McNeil was suffering from arthritis in her back and found it difficult to decorate at the base of her Christmas tree.
“I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted to do, and I had to get the tree out of the way,” McNeil said.
She devised a method to make the tree appear to be floating, which left her plenty of room for holiday decorations.
“On one level, I have a Nativity scene and another is a kind of Christmas village. Most of the houses are originals. One year I went to the store and saw lovely ceramic houses, so I bought a few. I also bought some figures to go with it. If I ever see a figure that is really cute, I buy it. I have an elderly lady with a loaf of bread, and a man with a lot of packages, so I put him next to the post office,” she said.
O’Neil is particular about who and what she includes in her display, so she discourages people from contributing to her collection and she decorates the tree by herself.
n Big job. “I need a long ladder because I am only 5 feet tall. It takes me about a week and really tires me out, but I love it. I take it down by myself, too. It’s a big job. I have to wrap everything and I say goodbye to them and tell them that I hope to see them next year, but you never know,” she said.
O’Neil, who has three adult children and eight grandchildren, moved to California from New Jersey more than 50 years ago. She came to Carson Valley three years ago.
“I came to California in 1946, but I didn’t know what to expect. Before I left New Jersey, I bought these eight little isinglass houses. I still have five, and I put them up every year,” she said.
O’Neil said she is motivated to put up the mystery tree every year for her grandchildren.
“It tires me out, but it would just be a big disillusionment if they came to see it, and it wasn’t up,” she said.
O’Neil leaves the tree up until Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany which celebrates the visit of the three kings to the Christ Child.
“I have to leave the tree up until Jan. 6,” O’Neil said. “I can’t leave the kings stranded.”
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