The true meaning of Christmas was on full display Dec. 11, when a Marsh Landing couple hosted a holiday gathering that raised more than $33,000 for an Ethiopian orphanage.
As in years past, the centerpiece of Richard and Lynda Masulli’s annual December event was the 20 Christmas trees that adorn the couple’s 10,000 square-foot home on Bristol Place. Guests strolled throughout the home to view elaborately decorated trees that together feature more than 2,500 collectible ornaments. The gathering also featured a silent auction that included homemade cakes baked by Lynda Masulli – whose business A Beautiful Cookie specializes in homemade sweet treats – as well as the chance to host a dinner party for 12 at the Masulli home.
As part of the event’s fundraising focus, guests had an opportunity to sponsor a child at Lantu’s Home of Hidden Treasures, an orphanage in Ethiopia started last year by 20-year-old Ponte Vedra Beach resident Suzanne Scheuble. By the end of the evening, all 18 children had found at least one sponsor.
“This is the most we’ve ever raised,” said Richard Masulli, noting that this is the second year the orphanage has been the beneficiary of the popular holiday event. In previous years, the party benefited organizations such as the JT Townsend Foundation and Beaches Community Kitchen.
“We started tying it in with charity,” he said. “If you’re going to go through all this work, it might as well be for a good cause.”
Labor of love
The Masullis’ multiple Christmas tree tradition began simply enough in 1990, Masulli said, when his wife suggested that family members seeking Christmas gift ideas give her a Christopher Radko ornament for their tree. Family and friends were happy to oblige and after a decade, the couple had collected some 450 Radko ornaments.
They soon began adding other well-known ornament designers to their collection, including Patricia Breen – whose collectible ornaments can cost hundreds of dollars – and the Polish artist Mia. As the collection grew, so did the number of trees required to display them all.
The decorating process begins in October, Masulli said, as he sets up each tree and starts the meticulous process of decorating each one.
“Each ornament is catalogued and stored in acid-free paper in special containers,” he said. “I store them in collections, so I can pull out a whole theme at one time.”
The giant tree in the home’s living room, for example, is decorated exclusively with Christopher Radko ornaments. Other trees feature color themes: A tree with blue ornaments graces the couple’s bedroom while a tree bearing traditional red and green ornaments is Masulli’s personal favorite.
Also on display are trees with topical themes: One tree, for example, features official White House ornaments – plus the new addition of a “Make America Great Again” ornament – while another displays ornaments illustrating “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Snow White and Dopey, meanwhile, are among the ornaments hanging on a Disney-themed tree stationed outside the in-home theater.
As their passion for collecting ornaments has grown, the Masullis have picked up a few smaller collections along the way, including a selection of colorful tree toppers and German candy containers shaped like Saint Nick.
Ready to downsize
So popular has the Masulli’s Christmas tree display become with family, friends and neighbors that it was with a twinge of regret that Richard Masulli acknowledged this year may be the last time the entire collection is displayed at one time. After 16 years in the home they built, the Masullis have decided to downsize and have put the home up for sale. It is listed with Susan Froman of Berkshire Hathaway in Ponte Vedra.
“I’m trying to avoid thinking about it,” said Masulli. “We may have fewer trees and just pile more ornaments on them.”
Wife Lynda Masulli, however, insists that wherever the next chapter in their journey takes them, the Christmas tree tradition will continue.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Without a doubt!”