When the big painted signs go up, I really know how very close it is to Christmas Day. This is so much more exciting than just looking at the calendar or the date on my cell phone. I see this welcoming view as I approach the office, begin to read the messages and start thinking back to all the people who have been involved in this annual show of art. It’s a tradition!
Each year, all employees are invited to participate in a painting marathon to create over-sized holiday signs. That means painting on a 4’ x 8’ piece of plywood surface. Paints & workspaces are provided, departments & coworkers team up and away we go. Sometimes a particular theme is suggested or a contest is announced, but always - everyone gets busy deciding what their design will be this year. As the signs are completed, our super can-do maintenance team applies easels to the backs, takes them to the front lawn and lines them up along the edge of the street. Talk about spreading holiday cheer! It’s so much fun to get into the spirit with everyone, and we spread the word a good distance.
Throughout the season, cars drive by often to take in the sight. Some are funny, some are serious, some are spiritual, some are masterpieces and some are intentionally not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even drawn a stick figure, you’re suddenly pulled into the activity and it feels good to grab a paint brush and start the art! What really come across are the special messages and reminders expressed by all.
Jim Dittrich, retired from the military, is our VP of operations. He finds us the wide open spaces roomy enough to paint in and he is the one who helped us to start this tradition at Leisure Arts. (And importantly, he gets all of our book shipments out the door and on their way to you everyday! Kind of like Santa delivering the goodies…) I asked him to share how this idea came about. In his own words:
For as long as I can remember, going back over 30 years, military units have painted a 4’ x 8’ piece of plywood, with a holiday scene that identifies their unit. Many were humorous, and many included the tools of their trade in the drawing. One had a C130 aircraft with Santa throwing presents out the back. Another had Army Infantrymen in combat gear riding camels, acting as the 3 wisemen. Often, there were competitions for the best Holiday sign. These signs helped remind us of the season, no matter where we were. We started this tradition at Leisure Arts 10 years ago. Besides getting us in the holiday spirit, we have identified some remarkable artists from all over the company.
Jim Dittrich (LTC, USA, Retired)
Enjoy your holiday traditions with friends & family this year! Please tell us about them - we'd love to hear from you. Maybe you'll start a new one - or even take up a little (or big!) painting project. You may enjoy personal stories & ideas from our readers and editors about their treasured family customs in Christmas Traditions. It's a beautiful book filled with ideas for starting new celebrations, gifts to create and wonderful recipes to enjoy for years to come.