Crazy for Christmas

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by Leslie Criss // photos by Lauren Wood

Jill and Jimmy Stricklen are crazy about Christmas. 

So, when the couple moved from the home they’d built and occupied in Burnsville for 32 years, naturally they hauled boxes of decorations from Christmases past to their new home. 

And, of course, Jill has had fun adding some new holiday spangle to the family perennials.

The Stricklens’ home rests on a portion of 85 acres the couple owns in the northeast corner of Alcorn County, quite possibly in hollering distance of Tennessee and Alabama.

Though Jimmy grew up in Burnsville, a move nearer to Corinth seemed prudent.

“I’d come to Corinth every day for something,” Jill said. “Moving just made sense.”

Her husband agreed and offered an additional reason for the move.

“We wanted more acreage,” he said. 

The Stricklens – he’s 60; she’s 56 – have made good use of their expanded acreage.

First, Jimmy, a longtime contractor, built The Oakley House, a classic log cabin put together with 200-year-old logs. The Oakley House, since 2015, has had visitors from all over the United States and from abroad.

The two, who might love a project about as much as they love Christmas, later located an old grain silo in Tennessee, bought it and had it hauled to their property.

Then the real work began as they transformed the silo, now known as The Farmhouse, into a livable space that’s now in demand as a rented getaway.

The couple and their only daughter, Hannah, moved into the Jimmy Stricklen-built family home in 2017.

Haul out the holly

Jill normally begins decorating for Christmas in October, but this year, she’s had an additional project – helping plan the wedding of 24-year-old Hannah, who was married Oct. 26 at Spring Hill Farm. Spring Hill Farm is yet another Stricklen family project. It’s a wedding venue situated just a stone’s throw from the family home.

“Most of our projects we really enjoy,” Jimmy said, laughing. “This wedding venue got a little hectic. We started in April and the first wedding was in October. I’m telling, that’s not your typical barn down there. It was a big project.

“So big, Jill says it’s her last project.”

But there’s the Christmas decorating to do and Jill is already gearing up to do it.

“Hopefully, I’ll start decorating the first of November, after the wedding,” Jill said. 

For the Stricklens, decorating for Christmas entails more than putting up a tree. The vaulted ceilings in the family’s living room offer space for a rather tall tree – 12 feet, to be exact.

That’s the primary tree, decorated with woodsy, nature-themed ornaments.

Is it a joint project, this sprucing up of a massive artificial evergreen?

“I bring in the ladder,” Jimmy said, laughing. “She does most of it.”

The tree in the kitchen, though not as large as the neighboring living room tree, is just as festively decorated. There’s a third holiday tree in the master bedroom.

A “Merry Christmas” banner is hung from the mantle above the stone fireplace in the living room. Rest assured, it’s not just any mantle. Jimmy will quickly let it be known – this one’s special.

“When I first began clearing the lot for the house, a big tree had fallen on the ground,” he said. “As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to use it. I carried it to the other house on a trailer.”

That mantle has become a major conversation piece in the family living room.

Along with the banner hang six stockings, three for the humans and one each for Sophie the Shih Tzu, Bella the Yorkie and Lilly the cat. A seventh stocking will be added this Christmas for the Stricklens’ new son-in-law.

In addition to the family home, Jill also decorates the silo, the cabin and the apartment built behind their home. This year, she’ll also decorate the just-completed wedding venue.

“We also decorate the bridge,” Jimmy said of the wooden bridge visitors drive across to get to the house.

It takes about a week to get the trees and other decorating done, Jill said. And it doesn’t stay up long after Christmas.

“It’s a process,” she said. “It definitely takes a while.”

And last year she and Hannah decorated the homes of several others who requested their decorating creativity.

Outside the house, passersby won’t see thousands of lights and an abundance of decorations tossed about. There’ll be something simple like wreaths and ribbons.

“You won’t see anything like Chevy Chase (in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”),” she said, laughing. “We just do this for our enjoyment. It’s what we love.” 

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