Mary and Joel Abramson in the living room of their Swampscott home.
By STACEY MARCUS
While most people were in the supermarket shopping for delicacies for Thanksgiving in the middle of November, Mary and Joel Abramson were gearing up to spend more than 100 hours transforming their beautiful home into a twinkling winter wonderland. The Jewish couple has spent the last 30 years lavishly decorating for the holidays with thousands of collectibles and relics they’ve stockpiled over the last three decades. The annual ritual is not religious in nature, more of a spirited tribute to Mary’s merchandising magic from her days in retail, her affinity for collectibles and the couple’s desire to share merriment and mementos from their world travels with family and friends.
Before we tour the magic, it’s important to note that in true holiday spirit, there are elves (led by one angel named Mary) working around the clock to create packages of delight behind the scenes. When Joel, who owns Flagship Travel in Marblehead, owned J & J Sales and Marketing, he often received samples of cosmetic and beauty products.
“Mary came up with an idea to create holiday baskets and give them away to charities,” says Joel.
More than 7,000 baskets containing 250,000 samples have been distributed to area charities over the last 15 years to organizations including KIPP Schools in Lynn and Boston, Girls Inc., HAWC, Pine Street Inn and Catholic Charities. The Boston Celtics recognized Mary as a “Hero Among Us” in 2012 for her tireless efforts to organize a group of local women to help prepare gift baskets for holiday giving.
Along with a huge heart and amazing organizational skills, Mary has a creative eye and a love of tradition. Thirty years ago when the couple moved from their home on Morton Avenue into their current 15-room house, they did not have enough furniture to fill the space.
What began as a creative way to bring warmth and sparkle into empty space grew each year.
“I got into loving Christmas collectibles,” notes Mary, whose background in retailing led her to post-Christmas bargain hunting for treasures for the next year. Along with collectibles, the couple combed the world to bring home ornaments from their travels.
“Once it started, it evolved into creating rooms by themes,” says Joel.
Themes include Elvis, Boston sports teams, Washington D.C. (in honor of their son, Ben, who resides there), green, gold and silver. Twelve feet of snow-filled tables display intricate Christmas scenes with villages, sleds and sparkle galore.
For those unfamiliar with the charm of Annalee dolls and decorations, you will be instantly enchanted by Mary’s collection of hundreds of adornments that create a magical land for all ages.
“We have people asking to bring family members,” says Joel, who notes they often have a piano player and caricature artists. “It’s a real ecumenical celebration,” he says.
Along with the Christmas embellishments, the Abramsons add the light of Chanukah through a handmade menorah and Chanukah candles each year.
About two weeks after Christmas, the couple puts everything away in its proper space.
“Mary remembers where everything goes,” says Joel, laughing and wondering, “what are we going to do with all this Christmas stuff?”
My guess is they will decking the halls again same time next year.