The Dickinson family really loves to dress up for Christmas

All decked out

Julie Dickinson likes to go over the top, especially at Christmas.

“I do like some Christmas,” she says with a laugh. “I’m a real overdone person. I like my stuff.”

And for Dickinson, that means big, bold splashes of vibrant red, green and gold.

“We don’t do neutral,” she says.

Her decorations always begin with ribbon.

“I get a different ribbon every year,” she says. “I get involved with the ribbon in about July. That’s what excites me.”

Much of Dickinson’s decorating is done by Daniel Dehart, who has worked for years for her and several of her friends.

“There is not one thing Daniel cannot do, from construction to tying a bow,” she says.

The decorating actually starts at the street-side mailbox, winds around the front door and inside, where a life-sized Santa in a red velvet suit presides over the dining room. He once decorated Hollydays when Dickinson, a former Junior League president, chaired the league’s holiday market.

But Dickinson concentrates her decorating in the family’s open living room, dining room, keeping room and kitchen area.

The living room area is decorated more formally than the rest of the open area. There, in a back corner, sits a 12-foot Christmas tree filled with Radko ornaments collected over years. Every one of them is hand picked. “Each one has to speak to me,” says Dickinson of the handcrafted European glass ornaments.

The Radko tree is covered with the ribbon of the year.

“I have to have big bows,” Dickinson says, “and I’m not happy unless the top of the tree is overdone.”

Hanging from the living room mantel are the family stockings for Dickinson, husband Travis and children Courtney, 22, Cassidy, 15, and Caden, 14. They sign their Christmas cards JT and the three Cs.

The stockings are all hand-beaded in patterns used for generations by Dickinson’s family. Her friend, Marylea Fears, who now lives in Jackson, Miss., has the family beading patterns and can do the elaborate handwork to make the stockings.

The living room opens to the keeping room with another 12-foot tree, this one decorated a little less formally.

“If the kids made it, it’s probably on that tree,” Dickinson says.

The keeping room also has some of the large Radko pieces, like a Santa car filled with gifts, snow globes, a large Santa cookie jar and a whimsical Santa with gifts on his head standing on the breakfast room table. A Radko snowman sits atop the kitchen island under a large chandelier wrapped in greenery.

Julie and Travis Dickinson moved to their present home on a gated street off Highland Road a week before Hurricane Katrina. Their previous house had large porches and many rooms, which Julie Dickinson decorated from top to bottom.

“I felt the need to decorate every inch,” she says.

When they built their present house, she didn’t want another porch. “I knew I would have to decorate it,” she says.

She admits she has toned it down some, keeping her decorating to the large open room. “I had 21 trees at the last house,” she says. “I had to stop the madness.”

But, Dickinson says she loves planning for Christmas.

“I love getting caught in the Christmas department,” she says. “That’s a place you don’t want to lose me.”