Saturday, August 30, 2014

Professor promotes Christmas joy

Tom Donovan invites guests to tour his home filled with more than 80 trees and thousands of decorations

decorate — Tom Donovan and Sundi Donovan start decorating their house for Christmas in September. Photo credit; Courtney Russo

Decorate — Tom Donovan and Sundi Donovan start decorating their house for Christmas in September. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

The spirit of Christmas comes early to the Donovan home every year.

Starting in September, Liberty University Online assistant professor Tom Donovan, husband of assistant professor of Psychology Sundi Donovan, breaks out the decorations and puts up more than 80 trees and thousands of decorations to cover every wall, shelf and room of their home, according Tom Donovan.

More than 200 people tour their home during their invitation-only open house events, which begin right after Thanksgiving break, Tom Donovan said.

“It’s not for the people to come over, it’s not for the lights and it’s not for the trees,” Tom Donovan said. “It’s because it is the birth of our savior. I get very excited about the fact that God loved us so much to send his son to this earth to become one of us.”

According to Tom Donovan, his love for Christmas began at a very young age. At three years old, he brought in a dead tree branch from the backyard and set it up in his room as his own personal Christmas tree.

spirit — Tom Donovan and Sundi Donovan pose in front of one of their 80 trees. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Spirit — Tom Donovan and Sundi Donovan pose in front of one of their 80 trees. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

As an adult, his office is the most decorated room in the house, Tom Donovan said, and is usually themed as Santa’s workshop, including everything from animated elves to train sets. Last year, there were 40 trees in his office alone.

Nathan Norman, a 5-year-old boy with brain cancer, toured the Donovan’s home with his family last year, Tom Donovan said. At the end of the tour, they asked Norman what his favorite room was.

“He took us all the way up to our guest room, which was odd because it is a very formal room,” Tom Donovan said. “His mom asked him, ‘Nathan, why is this your favorite room?’ and he said, ‘Because there is a lot of gold in here, and gold is the color of the angels I see.’”

According to Tom Donovan, Norman’s mom said that, as the cancer was getting worse, Norman began to see angels.

Now, whenever Tom Donovan takes a group to the guest room, he tells them Norman’s story and asks them to pray for Norman and his family.

The Donovans opened up their home for its first tour seven years ago. Some of the decorations are decades old, although Tom Donovan adds more to the collection every year.

“I decorate every aspect of my home as an illustration of me celebrating the birth of my savior with every part of my being and having our savior fill every part of my heart,” Tom Donovan said. “Just like baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision, my outward celebration is an expression, a very limited expression as exuberant as this display is, of the joy that I have in my heart for the birth of our savior.”

On Christmas Day last year, an article on the Donovan’s home was printed on the front page of The News & Advance.

“The reporter asked me point blank, ‘Why do you do it? It’s so much work,’” Tom Donovan said. “And it is, but that is why. Without Christ, there is no reason to do it … there are certain opportunities that have been opened to me to share the gospel, simply because I have 80 trees in my home.”

Although it is plenty of work, Tom Donovan alone assembles and dissembles the decorations.

According to Tom Donovan, his passion for Christmas and joy over the birth of his savior has created a platform to spread the true meaning of Christmas.

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