Cedar Rapids family's home puts Christmas memories on display


CEDAR RAPIDS — At Jim and Ann Finneman’s house, getting ready for the holidays means decorating not one but five Christmas trees, each with a different theme.

In the living room, there is the teddy bear tree, covered with tiny bears Jim Finneman bought Ann before they got married. The dining room tree is covered with ceramic Santas. In the front foyer, a giant Santa watches over the house and another themed tree from a ledge above the front door.

“This is kind of my favorite room,” their son Ross, 15, said. “This is the one that sparkles the most. It’s the most formal looking one. I like it.”


He likes the banisters up the staircase, covered in garlands and baubles, and the tall tree that is bedecked with his favorite ornaments. Each year, both he and his brother Grant, 20, have gotten a new ornament, so that someday when they move into homes of their own, they can have a fully decorated tree.

A family quilt and Jim’s father’s toy train, along with blocks Ann’s mom played with as a baby, are tucked under the tree, so the scene is an homage to childhood past and present.

“I think it’s neat to pass all this down to our kids,” Ann said.

That’s what the couple value the most about decorating for Christmas, she said. To them, the house full of Santas and Nutcrackers and elves are vessels for the memories associated with them.

“I think every time you pull something out, there’s always a story, or fun memories of who gave it to you,” she said. “There are certain memories and traditions that hopefully we’re passing on to our children.”


They built their northeast side house on over an acre of wooded land 15 years ago

“We wanted trees, but a neighborhood feel,” Jim said. “We spend a lot of time out at the fire pit.”

They designed the house around the idea of entertaining and having a place their sons could enjoy, with an open kitchen and living room, plus a formal dining room and sitting room with a piano upstairs and a finished basement family room downstairs. Whether at Christmas or the rest of the year, Jim said most of the items in their house have stories behind them.

“Most of the things we’ve got here, we’ve collected or gotten when we traveled,” he said.


A director at Price Electric, he frequently traveled around the world for a previous job, and the family has traveled for fun.

Ornaments on a tree in the basement are a mishmash of homemade mementos, ornaments they’ve been gifted and souvenirs from travels. Other items collected on travels are tucked around the house.

They’re mixed in with family heirlooms. The last tree, a small one displayed in a guest bedroom, is festooned with decorations from the 1890s. The delicate paper garlands, silvery tinsel, candlestick holders and mercury beads were passed down through Ann’s family.


Upstairs, in the sitting room, a small, faded porcelain Santa is protected under a glass dome.

“He’s about 120 years old,” Ann said. “He’s originally from Germany, and he was on my mom’s tree growing up.”

In the basement, vintage Christmas postcards are arranged and framed and hanging on the walls. They were letters Ann’s grandparents sent each other, saved through the decades.

“They’re so pretty, I didn’t want them just sitting in a box,” Ann said. “It’s just kind of cool to think that was your grandparents writing to each other.”


Ross said he appreciates knowing the family connections behind the decorations he helps put up each year. They remind him of what he appreciates the most about the holiday.

“My favorite part of Christmas is probably having family actually be together. It’s kind of nice to see everyone together and talking,” he said.