In the United States, the Christmas season has become much more than a religious celebration. Traditions such as decorating one's home have led over the years to the creation of complete shops that sell nothing but Christmas decorations all year round. VOA's Victor Morales narrates.
"He sells, if you want to buy it for $10,000,” says Mel Bilbo. “But he is all handmade, every wrinkle in his face -- look at the eyes, the eye lashes -- she made every little bit of this by hand."
Mel Bilbo is the owner of Kringle's Christmas store in Branson, Missouri. This is one of the biggest Christmas stores in the United States, with six specialized rooms and thousands of items -- with prices ranging from a couple of dollars up to $45,000 for an Italian nativity scene.
Children love to visit, especially the Disney room and the music boxes.
You can find something for everyone here: young or old, rich or not so rich. Santa Claus figurines and collectible ornaments seem to be among of the favorites.
Mel Bilbo is very religious, but he has no problem with the commercial aspect of Christmas. "The commercial side of it? You got to make an honest living somewhere and I am having fun with this, so what better place to do it?"
Hundreds of kilometers away in Alexandria, Virginia, near Washington D.C., The Christmas Attic is a family tradition. Founded 35 years ago by Nina Whitesel in a small corner of an 18th century warehouse, the store today takes up all five floors of the building. It is now owned and managed by Nina's two daughters, Fay and Cheir. Here too you can find hundreds of items for the Christmas season -- some unique to the region, such as a patriotic nutcracker, dressed in red, white, and blue.
Despite working in a Christmas store, Fay says she is not very religious. "I believe in all kinds of religions. I feel that the Christmas attic is not a religious shop, I feel like its much more of a tradition."
Fay says everything in the store attracts customers, but many things do seem to go in cycles. One year, angels might be the most popular items -- the next will be Santa or snow men.
Keeping with the family tradition, Fay's daughter Caitlyn also works at the shop. "The Christmas Attic will be part of her life,” says Fay. “I hope her children and grandchildren will come as well."
Kringles and the Christmas Attic are among nearly 80 Christmas stores in the country that stay open all year-round. But despite its commercialization, Fay says Christmas is still a special holiday.
“I think Christmas is very personal, event though you may come into a shop and find joy in a shop and traditions, I think that Christmas is still in your home."
In her own home, Fay says, her children's handmade ornaments hang on her Christmas tree right next to expensive commercial ones. Everything, she says, should go on your tree: the old and the new, because they are all part of good Christmas memories.