A tree decked out in kelly green. Sounds of carols and jazz tunes filling the air. The mouth-watering aroma of prime rib rising from our dining room. It can only mean one thing: The holidays have arrived at Woodlands!

Folks at Woodlands love sharing the most wonderful time of the year with their family and friends, and Activities Director Donna May helps them find new and creative ways to do just that. “From late November through New Year’s Day, our social calendar is packed with events that entertain, uplift and spread good tidings to all,” Donna says. “You can really feel the excitement in the air.”

Decking the halls with Marco the Bison

Beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving, Woodlands residents and staff members get busy transforming our community into a winter wonderland. Soon, our gates and pathways are graced with greenery, while our hallways, common areas and dining venues are aglow with lights, wreaths and maybe a little mistletoe.

The centerpiece of our seasonal celebration is the “Marshall Tree,” decorated by residents with mementos and tributes to The Thundering Herd. From kelly green snowflakes to ornaments crafted to look like mascot Marco the Bison, the tree captures our love for the holidays and Marshall University. There’s one small exception, though. “Each year, one of the residents hides a WVU ornament somewhere on the tree,” Donna reveals. “There are huge bragging rights for the person who finds it.”

In other parts of the community, staff members display their creativity as well. Our library and in-house primary care clinic each have their own tree, while the food-themed decorations on our bistro’s tree really do look good enough to eat.

Shopping for books, handmade treasures and more

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a bustling bazaar packed with talented vendors and craftspeople. And from old favorites to novel surprises, the holiday bazaar at Woodlands always exceeds expectations.

This is Donna’s second year of organizing the bazaar, which takes place on the Monday and Tuesday following Thanksgiving. The market features about 20 vendors offering wares such as knitted hats, baby blankets, homemade crème brûlée, flower arrangements, books, baked goods, Fenton glass and jewelry.

Popular vendors include Ervin Jones, who transforms native hardwoods into unique creations like bowls, pens, birdhouses, snowmen and ornaments. The soaps, beeswax items and tasty edibles crafted at Holy Cross Monastery are also fan favorites. And no one leaves without a colorful hand-painted masterpiece from Gourd Craft.

One vendor with an amazing backstory is Heather McComas, a blind basket weaver who’s been practicing her art throughout the Huntington area for more than 20 years. She says she can envision the baskets in her mind and bring them to life through her hands. “People ask for Heather by name,” Donna exclaims.

And this year, folks are in for a special treat. Macy’s has booked a stand offering cosmetic and jewelry gift sets, fragrance collections and other items perfect for last-minute gift giving.

Food and entertainment help to make the season bright

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Do you hear what I hear? It’s the sound of choirs singing, bands playing and feet stomping. The season kicks off with a visit from Santa, who takes time from his busy schedule to bring gifts to our assisted living residents. Another popular act is the Lincoln County Cloggers, an Appalachian clog dance team and in-demand performers at state fairs across the region. And Bob Thompson, West Virginia Hall of Famer and the “hardest working man in jazz,” never fails to draw a crowd as well. Donna teases that acts like the Sweet Adeline’s, Saints Alive Choir, Renaissance Sings and Holy Spirit Carolers will also be on tap this December.

Of course, we pay close attention to the spiritual side of the season as well. On Christmas Eve, the community will hold a yuletide service, where folks can share communion. A local minister will also make an appearance—wearing an authentic shepherd’s robe—to tell the Christmas story from the perspective of those who watched over their flocks by night. And our Jewish residents can recite eight nights of Hanukkah blessings around our community menorah.

And where would the holidays be without an abundance of good food? Many residents invite their children and grandchildren to Christmas dinner, where Food Services Director Ron Smith wows them with fresh, seasonal culinary creations. When New Year’s Eve rolls around, he’ll be serving a tempting feast of salmon, lobster and prime rib—just in time to welcome 2024.

Once residents have had their fill of our on-campus events, they’ll also have the opportunity to take in some of the area’s fabled attractions. “We have several outings planned, including the Huntington Symphony and our annual Houses of Huntington tour,” Donna says. There’s also the spectacular Festival of Trees just over the river in Ohio, where folks can bid on beautiful Christmas trees and wreaths decorated by businesses and students from Lawrence County.

Socializing and celebrating a unique sense of community

If there’s one tradition that best reflects life at Woodlands, it’s the annual apartment tour, where people share their creative decorating skills with their neighbors. “Folks take a lot of pride in their decorations, and love to show off their heirlooms. Some even offer guests candies and homemade cookies,” Donna says. “It really does feel like family.”

If you are searching for a senior living community that looks and feels like home all year through, we invite you to explore life at Woodlands. For more than 25 years, our affordable oasis has welcomed active, independent adults seeking a vibrant, hassle-free lifestyle with peace of mind about future healthcare needs. To learn more or schedule a tour, call us at 304-697-1620.

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