CLAYTON -- The third annual Clayton Christmas Home Tour is a bonanza.

Hoping to learn about Spode or Rosemaling, two decorative homeware traditions from English and Norwegian areas of the world? Eager to grab a repurposing idea like salvaging a worn, dried wisteria vine from the Dumpster and using it to suggest driftwood on an outdoor table? Love the Nutcracker and noshing on cookies? Can't afford Hawaii, but hanker after a tropical fix?

The Clayton Historical Society's annual benefit event is the ticket to grab. For $20 and less time than it takes to find parking at the mall on Black Friday, visitors can take a self-guided tour to holiday nirvana by visiting five homes and the Victorian style Clayton Historical Museum.

"My house is the hospitality house," says Mary Spryer, whose Pinot Court home is filled with hundreds of what she fondly refers to as "Norwegian things."

Paying homage to her mother's ancestry, Spryer has sprinkled decorations and festive dishes amid Norwegian flags and a Julebukk (a Yule goat).

"Julebukking" is a mostly abandoned tradition involving costumes and masks and attempting to fool the neighbors with one's disguise. There won't be any of those shenanigans at the Spryers, where host and hostess are eager to turn strangers into welcome guests.

"It was a lot of work, but now, my house is ready ahead of time!" Spryer rejoices.

Frank and Marcia Thome say being in the lineup for the tour was easy: a note in the historical society's newsletter, a call to check the date, they signed on.


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"We do a lot of decorating and we always have family and personal celebrations. We've never had other people, but we thought it would be good to share it with the community and benefit the historical society," Marcia says.

The setting of their home, providing 270-degree exposure to Mount Diablo and the area's great outdoors -- is the home's most unique aspect.

"I pull things from nature and bring them into the interior," Marcia explains.

Collecting items from their travels, she's hoping to share stories of visits to Paris, and delighted to have her home debut on the tour circuit.

Intimacy might be the theme at the Van Brusselen's. Twenty-five years of collecting and fashioning handmade ornaments results in vignetted scenes, with stained glass bells and Hawaiian decorations handed down through generations and arranged on billowing, cottony "snow" drifts.

Jack Becker's and Lyle Swallow's fantastic home is "all things nutcracker" (and they really mean all). The homeowner's exuberance smothers a "skinny" tree with ornaments and butterflies while Native American decorations suggest an eclectic relationship with holiday traditions.

Local sourcing is pushed to the forefront as they highlight their home's remodeling contractor, RG Self Construction in Concord, and Clayton Landscape Designer Grete Ringenberg.

The fifth home on the tour is also a remodel, with floors that have been sunk, walls removed, fireplaces refined and even the bathrooms refurbished to serve as reminders to John and Linda Manzeck of their trips to Europe.

It's decorated with exactly the kind of tantalizing detail that leads to long discussions of favorite German beer halls, London's best Shakespearean theater productions, the time a lion jumped on a traveler's jeep in Africa, and more.

Their Mt. Washington Way home features a working "Polar Express" train, signed NASA photos, a Disney-inspired three-wall mural and musical cherubs.

Like all of the homes on the tour, the Manzeck's house suggests thoughtfulness more than things

In the grandest tradition of the season, the Clayton Christmas Home Tour represents generosity and satisfies the innately human desires to explore and share.

if you go
WHAT: Clayton Historical Society's annual Christmas Home Tour of five residences decorated for the holidays
WHEN: noon-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16
WHERE: Self-guided tour begins at the Clayton Historical Museum, 6101 Main St., Clayton
TICKETS/INFORMATION: $20 at www.claytonhistory.org