KAPAA — When she was a little girl, Stacie Cantu promised herself she would have a Christmas tree in every room when she grew up.
Years later, the King Kaumualii kindergarten teacher took it, as she told The Garden Island, “a little further than that.”
Starting with eight trees six years ago, she has amassed over 30 plastic Christmas trees — each with its own theme, each with its own memories, and each carefully decorated and placed solely by the mother of five.
“I was raised with a mom who decorated every inch of the house for Halloween as well as Christmas and I’m continuing the tradition,” Cantu said. “All the decorations have to be on sale, discounted or from thrift stores and garage sales. It’s the hunt, the excitement. Everything needs to be on sale because I have a large family and we’re on a strict budget.”
Among her dozens of Christmas trees, the themes for each are inspired by pop culture favorites like Darth Vader of “Star Wars,” Disney’s “Minions,” Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and even one inspired by the late musician Prince.
“I started with Disney for the kids,” Stacie said. “Eventually, it became another theme tree and another theme tree, but the family tree started it all.”
Of all her trees, she said, the family tree is her favorite.
“It stems from my own family and my own children. It has everything that we like, from Disney to McDonald’s to characters,” she said. “If I had to get rid of all the trees, that would be the only one I would keep. Christmas symbolizes the love I have for my family as well as the love for the holiday and the spirit.”
Jorey Cantu, one of Stacie’s three daughters and a Kauai High graduate, is home for the holidays.
She said the indoor holiday forest is “a whole bunch of crazy,” but it’s something the family is used to.
“It’s a gene that passed down from generation to generation,” Jorey said. “We have a bit of it. Right now it’s still my mom taking over Christmas, but eventually we’ll all inherit a little piece of it.”
Though Stacie does all the decorating, Jorey said she and her siblings help with the shopping portion.
“We try to pitch in. We get her some ornaments from time to time to build up the collection,” Jorey said.
After the Cantu family’s annual Halloween display for the public, Stacie is hard at work planning and decorating her home.
Her children also help in another way: They help her move the 200 small- to medium-sized containers filled with Christmas items.
“We have crates and crates of things both Halloween and Christmas going on at the same time. If I don’t start decorating the day after Halloween, I can’t finish it,” she said.
“It has to be done by Thanksgiving, so I can put on the lights for my family. We’re busting at the seams right now and figuring out how we can store these things better, but it’s difficult.”
She keeps the decorations up until January — when her children leave for college.
It takes her until April or longer to clean and get every item back into storage.
“I need to wrap certain things certain ways, so I really gotta be careful … but by the time I’m done, before you know it, it’s Christmas again,” she said.
Every weekend, Stacie invites friends, family or coworkers to enjoy the holiday season.
“I have different events like cocoa night,” she said.
Eventually, Stacie wants to extend her Christmas forest outside.
“I want to invite the public over to see that part,” she said. “It’s going to happen. I know it. I want a forest out there, too. I wish I could share with the community now, but it’s a private home.”
That goal is on its way, as members of the community donate to the collection.
“People would drop off their Christmas trees or ornaments,” she said. “I turn no trees or ornaments down.”