Christmas At The Governor's Mansion

This year, for the seventh and last time, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy trimmed, shaped and decorated the six Christmas trees for the governor’s residence in Hartford’s West End.

Malloy, who will not seek re-election, said this is the last year he will bedeck the 19-room home with six trees and a blizzard of Yuletide ornamentation.

“I’m relieved,” he said, during a tour of the 15,000-square-foot Prospect Avenue mansion. He’ll be moving out of his home for the past seven years in January 2019. “We’ll decorate [next year], but not to this extent because everything will have to be taken down pretty quickly by January.”

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the residence will be open to the public for free tours, accompanied by caroling from Hartford-area school choirs.

Each of the mansion’s six trees is decorated with a distinct theme. There is the bird tree, bedecked with wooden finches and robins hand-carved by a Vermont artisan 80 years ago. There is a tree that pays respect to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, whose purple and teal ornaments will be raffled off to benefit the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. There is the “Silver & Santas” tree, covered exclusively in silver ornaments and effigies of Father Christmas. And there is the family tree, whose ornaments are signposts of the Malloy family’s lives: A school bus, given to him when he was elected to the Stamford Board of Education in 1994. An orange slice from a trip to Poland with his wife, Cathy. A miniature glass state Capitol, presented to him on his first Christmas as governor in 2011.

The Malloys designed this year’s official Connecticut ornament — a submarine — which the governor said pays homage to the state’s military service and engineering heritage.

But missing from the trees Thursday morning were Malloy’s most prized ornaments. Cathy brought them downstairs in a shoebox: two ancient Santa figures, passed down to Malloy from his grandmother, born in the 1880s.

“They’re a little beat up,” he said, “but you’d be too if you were that old.”

Also in the shoebox were a few Styrofoam balls, dusted with glitter. Malloy said there is a photograph, published by The Stamford Advocate in the 1950s, that shows his sister holding the infant Malloy up to the family tree, the same glittered ball in his tiny hands.

“These don’t go in storage in the basement,” Cathy said of the shoebox treasure chest. “These go upstairs with us, just in case we need to escape. We can grab and go.”

The Yuletide decorating begins the day after Thanksgiving, Malloy said. Trees are brought in from Jones Family Farms in Shelton and Christmas lights go up. The following day, Malloy trims and shapes the trees himself. On Sunday, volunteers from UConn and Connecticut Master Gardener Association put the finishing touches on the 109-year-old home.

Silverware from the battleship USS Connecticut, the flagship of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, cups bunches of white cyclamens donated by the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association in the mansion’s living and dining rooms. Forty Steinbach nutcrackers, hand-carved in Germany, line the walls.

This will be Malloy’s seventh Christmas at the governor’s mansion. None, he said, stand out in his mind as any better than the rest.

“Every Christmas is great, you know, so I don’t have a fondest memory,” he said. But on second thought, Malloy, 62, noted he became a grandpa in October.

“This will be our first Christmas with our grandchild,” he said, “so this year, I think, will be my fondest memory.”

The governor’s residence will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Choirs from Hartford-area schools and universities will be caroling. There is no entry fee and tickets are not required, although donations will be accepted for Operation E.L.F., which helps military families during the holidays and throughout the year.

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