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That Christmas Magic: Creating Beauty and Giving Back

As a child, Elizabeth Macleay visited San Francisco with her grandparents at Christmas. Union Square was a retail mecca to rival 5th Avenue in New York, with animated Christmas windows in stores such as FAO Schwarz, I. Magnin’s, and Bullock’s. The City of Paris Dry Goods sported a 60-foot Christmas tree in its domed atrium that became the city’s official holiday tree.

That experience, as well as attending performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, gave Elizabeth a love of what she calls “that Christmas magic.” As an adult, she has become a master magician, transforming her home into a holiday wonderland.

“It’s a gift I give to people. It’s something we don’t experience much as adults because we’re so busy,” she says. When she hosts holiday parties, she particularly likes to see the reactions of her male guests. “The men are so into it. They’re not normally like that, but they remember when they were kids. It’s really neat.”

While she is known by friends and neighbors as “the lady who decorates,” Elizabeth hopes to open up her collection more widely to benefit ill and handicapped children and their families. As the parent of a special-needs child, she knows how difficult and lonely a road it can be. “When you take your nondisabled student to kindergarten, the school has it all set up to get you going,” she says. “But when you have a special-needs child, it always seems like a battle. I want to help change that.”

By Nancy Fontaine

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