The stone house, perched on a bit of high ground beyond the highway gate, is more than roof and rooms, more than shelter or resting place, especially at this time of year. Santa Claus is coming, and as Texas settles under the starry blanket of long winter nights, this welcoming house becomes a beacon, a blazing North Star guiding the Galloway clan home for the holidays.
For a dozen years, Janeen and Randy Galloway have hosted a family Christmas at this gracious house outside of Aledo, a growing community west of Fort Worth. Now retired, Randy was the celebrated sports commentator, columnist and radio personality known for his sometimes stinging reports. Janeen, his high school sweetheart and wife of more than 50 years, is the inspired architect of all this creative holiday cheer.
In the process of making the season “merry and bright,” the Galloway team has deepened and embellished traditions that unite their family and deliver the priceless gift of holiday memories to all lucky enough to be close to them.
Their Hill Country-inspired home, with standing seam roof and wide porch crowned by three dormers, is the centerpiece of a 5-acre spread they jokingly call “the ranch.” In Texas, working ranches are measured in sections of land, but Randy and Janeen count their lucky stars that they found this beautiful rural retreat 12 years ago.
In fact, they actually counted all the stars in the house: those carved into the mantel, on every door and window frame, and on the stone patio. They found more than 100 tucked away here and there, so they called the place Lucky Stars Ranch.
Now the ranch is their full-time home, but in the beginning they kept their Grand Prairie home and used the rural getaway only as a weekend and holiday retreat.
In the beginning, Janeen still decorated the Grand Prairie house for Christmas, too, but it didn’t take long for Lucky Stars to become Christmas Central for this family.
“It’s so much fun having the ranch, starting new traditions that my kids now see as something that’s always been around. Old traditions … only traditions … something they’ve grown up with,” says the Galloways’ youngest daughter, Jennifer Giddens. “We used to have the same ornaments every year, things my sister, Gina, and I made, but now the ornaments are all new … beautiful … things our children will have forever.”
Part of the Galloway tradition is extensive seasonal decorating. Janeen, who has an unerring inner compass for that sort of thing, furnished this sophisticated but rustic house, and loves seasonal decorating, too. But Christmas begs more … and more … and apparently still more.
“Every room is decorated,” she says. “We have seven trees. … I love the trees. I think they’re beautiful. I like the lights.”
Once she tackled decking the halls alone, but now she relies on Susie McKnight of Fort Worth, who arrives the Monday following Thanksgiving to tackle the two-day job.
“Randy and I leave,” she says. “I used to plan everything. Now it’s a surprise. Susie brings a crew of about five women … and when Christmas is over … sometime after New Year’s, she … packs it up.”
The big tree in the living room is always topped with a cowboy hat. Stockings are always hung on the stairway banister and across the balcony that overlooks the living room.
“There’s always a floral explosion coming out of some chaps on the balcony,” says McKnight, who begins studying trends and visiting holiday markets in the summer.
Because this house is a rustic country home, she keeps that as a theme in all the rooms but tries to change out ribbons or add a few new ornaments each year.
The Galloways have a storage unit filled with “bins and bins” of the Christmas things they’ve collected over the years.
Randy’s only holiday responsibility is bringing all that stuff home. All the loot fills a five-horse trailer, “but I only have to make one trip,” he says.
Janeen doesn’t have a favorite ornament designer, but she does have a collection of Christopher Radko ornaments designed by kids being treated at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “I have those because it’s a good cause,” she says of this annual fundraiser.
But what of those sweet holiday ornaments that the Galloways’ children and grandchildren have made over the years? They’re still displayed on the tree in the master bedroom or on the backs of other trees throughout the house.
“Those things are personal and sentimental, but they can be pretty, too,” says McKnight.
After the house is ready, there are holiday parties for Randy and Janeen’s friends, and often for their grandchildren’s friends as well.
The Galloways’ older daughter, Gina Wood, says she and her sister have never spent a Christmas morning away from their parents. No, not once. “We’ve always been with them on Christmas morning,” she says.
The sisters live on the same Aledo street now. Santa comes to their houses, of course; that’s where the children are on Christmas morning. But once the presents are opened, these families head for the Lucky Stars Ranch, which is only about a mile away.
“We all have matching pajamas,” says Gina. And so the clan gathers, all in PJs, the comfy uniform of the day, ready for their traditional Christmas-morning breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, gravy and fruit.
“I’ve tried to get them to try a breakfast casserole. … It would be easier, but they say no,” says Janeen.
The decorations may be elaborate, but the traditions are simple rituals: matching pajamas, a country breakfast, a family devoted to each other together year after year, each confident that he or she has a place in this sacred circle.
“Decorating makes the house festive,” says Gina, but she knows it is only the beginning of all the preparations this single day demands. She is quiet for a moment, considering this hectic season. “Frankly, as far as the family goes, we’d all be together whether there was one little tree or seven.”