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Home for the Holidays with Martha

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. And Martha loves to celebrate with dear family and friends. Over the years, she has continued traditions started by her parents and created new ones with her grandchildren. Here, she reminisces.

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martha holiday teenager
Photography by: Courtesy of Martha Stewart
This picture of me at 14 was taken by my father in front of the Kostyra tree. I am all decked out in holiday finery -- my first formal dress, sewn at home by my Mother and me; ice-blue taffeta with a pink net overlay and pink tulle gloves!

Every year I want my Christmas holiday to be the same, but different. Subtle additions and subtractions can be surreptitiously incorporated, as long as the overall feeling and atmosphere remain the same. My windows and doorways are always garlanded and wreathed indoors and out. Last year I purchased more than 40 evergreen wreaths for the windows of the house and the eaves of the outbuildings, and affixed wonderful shooting stars, made from hundreds of little white lights, to the roofs and sides of the buildings.

lighted tree
Perhaps my favorite outdoor lighting project ever! We decorated one of the ancient apple trees in Bedford, illuminating it with hundreds of small white lights and many kugels of varying sizes.

The farm comes to life every night, a glistening wonderland the moment the skies darken. I’m tempted to do more, but I leave the jolly Santas, sleighs, and teams of reindeer to the neighbors. I concentrate on what I think will be quietly visible and breathtakingly gorgeous. Indoors, I go a bit more crazy -- a tree or two or three in every room, hung with vintage and not-so-vintage ornaments that I have collected over the years. One room might be decorated for a woodland scene, another for our furry friends, and another just for the birds. I pull down the best table coverings from the attic and place them on tables, then add decorations on every flat surface I find to amuse and delight -- no opportunity is spared to embellish and get into the spirit.


[SEE MORE: This Is Where Martha Holds Thanksgiving Dinner]
Christmas Tree
It's always been my inclination to decorate every room, focusing on trees and wreaths, as well as homemade and vintage ornaments.
Christmas Carols
Caroling has always been a favorite pasttime -- old and new songs are sung with gusto by some very talented singers in our family.

I keep these traditions alive by photographing every holiday and saving the decorations from year to year. I try to have a big open house to celebrate with my family, friends, and neighbors. This is not so different from what my parents did in our family home in Nutley, New Jersey, and what I hope my daughter will do as her two children grow and thrive.  Last year Alexis decorated an incredible pink tree with a new collection of oversize glass balls in pastel pinks, greens, and blues. I think she’s caught the bug -- the Christmas-decorating bug! Who knows what’s in store this year, but I can’t wait to celebrate, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

Kostyra house
The Kostyra homestead on Elm Place in Nutley, New Jersey.
Family Portrait
My only formal family photo, from 1956 (clock-wise from top right): Eric, Dad, George, Mom, Laura, Kathy, Frank, and me.
Since 1982, I’ve made eggnog -- a rich concoction of eggs, milk, cream, sugar, brandy, bourbon, and rum.
[SIP THESE: Holiday Eggnog Recipes]
Gifts have been opened -- time to eat! Grandson Truman starts his breakfast.
[TRY THESE: Christmas Brunch Recipes]
Martha with toddler
During the day, we try to spend time outdoors, collecting eggs, hiking, and riding horses.
[MEET: Martha's Horses]