HALSTEAD — When you walk into the home of Joe and Carolee Flask during the holiday season, you are immediately surrounded by Christmas.
"We've got one of the largest antique Christmas collections in the Midwest," Joe Flask said.
Even the exterior of the Flask's house is decorated with antiques — brass instruments entwined with green garland frame the front doorway of their home, which was built in 1887.
"I have loved Christmas all my life," Joe Flask said.
Santa Claus figurines — 92 of them, to be precise — sit on their coffee table, along with a bowl filled with German glass kugel ornaments.
"My first kugels were given to me a number of years ago by an antique dealer friend in Wichita," Joe Flask said. "In the last 40 years, I've added more and more and now we have about 3,000 old German ornaments and 11 feather trees."
Putting out the antique Christmas decorations takes time and effort.
"It took me about three weeks this year to get it all up," Joe Flask said. "We store it up on the third floor in a bedroom. It has to come down and the boxes have to go back up and then they have to come back down and be loaded and go back up again."
Collections of Belsnickle figurines, carved sheep and German putz animals and houses that date back to the 1900s sit on shelves and tabletops around the living room. Paper mache bells wrapped in metallic tissue paper are hung in one doorway.
"In WWII, they were not allowed to use any tinfoil," Joe Flask explained.
The oldest item in the collection is a small Christmas tree that Joe Flask's grandmother brought with her when she immigrated to the United States from Italy around 1890.
"It must have meant something to her," Joe Flask said. "There were 12 little ornaments that she brought with her, also, and they were in the shape of a rosebud."
Joe Flask, who has been a florist for more than 60 years and owns Halstead Floral, finds the rosebud ornaments especially meaningful, and has passed one on to each of his four children.
Carolee Flask collects Christmas decorations featuring angels, music and nativities.
"I enjoy it, too," Carolee Flask said.
One special Christmas decoration sits out year-round — a metal nativity scene surrounded by the words "believe in miracles."
"Carolee had a brain aneurysm," Joe Flask said. "They told me to call the family, that there was nothing they could do."
"Well, I showed them," Carolee Flask laughed.
The Flasks' antique Christmas collection has been featured in more than a half dozen area museums and was highlighted in Early American Life magazine, attracting interest from people around the country.
Joe Flask said he does not focus on any specific type of decoration, but collects anything Christmas that was made prior to 1940.
"I just think that Christmas is a happy time," Joe Flask said. "I just love Christmas."