I am thrilled to share with you today a Q&A with the renowned and iconic name in American home decor, Christopher Radko
. For over 30 years, Christopher’s handcrafted holiday ornaments and decor have graced the homes of royalty, Hollywood celebrities and families world over. Christopher has been on TODAY and OPRAH, and he’s been called the “Ralph Lauren of Holiday Home decor,” and “the Czar of Christmas Present” by the New York Times
. Having sold his Christmas company, he has taken a break for a while from ornament making. In the meanwhile, Christopher spends his time gardening and organic farming, which gives him the chance to enjoy the great outdoors. Christopher has had a passion for gardening ever since he was a child growing up in the Bronx, where his parents introduced him to a more delightful playground — the Victorian Bronx Botanical Gardens
. It was in these lush gardens he first discovered the beauty and heady scent of wild lavender flowers, and this lead to his creating a spa lavender company under his name. He is also working the event organizer for the 50th Anniversary in 2018 of the filming of Hello, Dolly!
(starring Barbra Streisand) in the Hudson Highlands.
I’m so excited to announce that FIVE lucky people will win copies of the The Charm Bracelet
in paperback as well as the eBook of Christmas Angels
. How’s that for an amazing early holiday present? All you have to do is visit my Facebook page
starting Friday December 16, 2016 and post a comment below the post to enter for a chance to win by sharing with us your favorite holiday ornament/decoration and the reason why it’s so meaningful
. The giveaway will remain open until Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 7 p.m. ET
, and I will choose winners by randomly picking numbers from the total number of entrants and from the order in which you responded. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Facebook is not responsible for this giveaway.
Wade, tell us about what inspires your writing. And tell us about your holiday story Christmas Angels and what you hope readers will take away from it.
My fiction is inspired by my grandmothers’ and family’s heirlooms, lives and lessons. The stories I write are a tribute to family — about bad things that happen to good people, to all of us — and how we soldier through the hardships in our lives with love, faith, hope and each other. My fiction is also a tribute to all of our elders, whose stories and sacrifices helped shape us and make us the people we are today. My debut novel, The Charm Bracelet
, was inspired by my grandmothers’ charm bracelets. It was through the charms on their bracelets that I got to know my grandmothers not just as my grandmas but as incredible women who lived extraordinary lives filled beauty, hope and tragedy. They taught me that the simplest things in life — family, friends, faith, fun, love and a passion for life and what you do — are truly the grandest gifts. The Hope Chest
was inspired by my family hope chests — and the special keepsakes that were held inside — and is about finding hope when you think all is lost. It is also a tribute to my uncle, who waged a long, courageous battle with ALS and taught me the meaning of grace, as well as to the caregivers who loved and cared for my father in his final years, angels who walk this earth and redefined the meaning of family to me. And angels play a special role in Christmas Angels
: Not only angels in the form of heirloom holiday ornaments, tree toppers, cookie cutters and pins, but also angels in the form of Christmas and guardian angels that surround us, if only we choose to see them. I wrote the novella because I love the holidays. In our home, we typically decorate at least six trees, all with special themes and decorations: Heirloom/vintage, garden, cabin, modern, kitchen, and I always have a Charlie Brown tree in my office. The holidays have taken on even more meaning since the loss of my parents. I wrote Christmas Angels
to remind readers of the meaning and magic of Christmas as well as to show them that life (and love) must go on somehow in even the hardest of times. Rich with the spirit of Christmas and all its traditions, Christmas Angels
is a delightful love story about Kate, a single woman in her 30s, who works as a holiday designer/decorator bedecking and bedazzling the city for the holidays (sound familiar, Christopher?). Her work keeps her from spending the holidays with her family and masks the loneliness and pain after a nasty breakup just before Christmas. Known as “The Christmas Angel” for providing holiday beauty to the city’s offices, homes, and malls, Kate’s world changes when she decorates the home of a widowed single dad and his lonely young son.
Christopher, tell us about what inspired your ornament company.
It all started with my loving, as a wee kid, to sneak under the lowest branches of the tree and look up through the branches at the shiny ornaments and colorful lights. Everything was so sparkly and full of fantasy: Santas on spaceships, shooting stars, skating snowmen…. The walls were awash in rainbow colors, and the scent of the tree transported me to another, more magical world. Andy Williams’s “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” played on the record player, and I wanted those moments to last forever.
As I grew older, the tree had to get larger, too. Finally, we had a 12-foot tree in my parents’ living room. It was my job to clean out the tree stand each year, a task I never enjoyed to do. So, finally, I bought a shiny aluminum stand that was supposed to hold large trees. Alas, it didn’t! One of the legs cracked, sending the entire decorated tree, with all the ornaments on it, smashing to the ground. My grandmother came into the room and saw what happened. Our tree was like a family diary. All her favorite ornaments, including some she had received as a child back in 1905, were shattered. “Oh, Christopher,” she moaned, “you’ve ruined Christmas forever!!”
I felt terrible! I hadn’t personally stomped on our family’s ornaments, but I sure felt as though I had. And the thing was, you couldn’t find ornaments like those in the stores anymore. No one was making them. What a depressing Christmas that was. Well, a little bit of guilt goes a long way. I was inspired to find European glassblowers to make recreations of some of our family favorites. So I had some made for me, and what I found is that friends wanted to buy them too! They’d tell me they had ornaments like these from their grandparent’s time just like I did. So I contacted my glassblowers and ordered new samples, this time in different sizes, and colors, too. And thus, a Christmas business was born.
Christopher, that’s so ironic because your back story is a huge back story in my upcoming novel, The Hope Chest: The lead characters’ tree crashes just after the death of her parents, and their beloved heirloom ornaments smash. They end up starting anew and piece together a tree topper from the broken bits, something that also happened with me and my family. What impact did that have on you? And do you have a particular ornament that meant a great deal to you growing up or that has stayed with you through the years?
I am a huge fan of Christmas artistry, and have a lot of respect for the glassblowing artisans I have worked with and taught. In some cases, I was training the grandchildren of artisans from the 1920’s, young adults who otherwise would be having office jobs behind computers each day. At one point, my ornament orders kept over 3,000 craftsmen and women busy in Poland, Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic. I encouraged them to expand their repertoire, use better glass and scientific techniques and create more intricate ornaments than their forbears had ever made. They, in turn, were pleased to know that their family’s traditions could find life again today.
My own family tree falling over was not an ending, but a beginning. It was a doorway of opportunity into an entirely new world, one in which I could share my love of Christmas and human heart connection with others. Sometimes people will ask if I have a favorite ornament, and I always say, the one that brings a smile to your face, that’s a favorite one. It could even be that little cotton ball snowman your kid made in 3rd grade art class. It’s about the memories and heart connection they contain. That’s what make them priceless.
Wade, same question to you: Do you have a particular ornament or holiday tradition that meant a great deal to you growing up or that has stayed with you through the years?
My favorite Christmas decoration is probably the antique tree skirt my grandmother made so long ago. It features hand-sewn, hand-decorated and hand-painted figures and appliques of an angel, the Virgin Mary, bells, Santa, Rudolph, the North Star as well as hundreds of shiny stars. It reminds me of my grandma and all of our Christmases together … it is so beautiful.
Now for a Lightning Round:
Christmas tree lights – White, All One-Color, or Multi-color?
Christopher: I am a vintage Christmas fan, so I love the GE c-7’s and c-9’s of the 1960’s and 70’s. They came in jewel-toned colors, rich cobalts, golds, rubies, and emerald green, and if you were lucky, sometime you’d find pink and purple ones too! Some even blinked, and that created a sense of life on the tree. I also love bubble lights. For the most part, I prefer the warm glow of incandescent lights to the new glaring cold LED’s.
Wade: White or Multi-Color … and I love bubble lights, too! (I grew up with one-color trees my dad loved.)
Tree topper – Angel vs. Star?
Christopher: How about an Angel surrounded by stars? That’s what I’d do.
Wade: Both (Have both of my mothers’ tree toppers, an angel as well a vintage aqua blue glass topper in the shape of a star with a beautiful cut starburst in the middle)
Christmas tree – Real vs. Fake?
Christopher: I alternate. There’s a lot of maintenance with real trees, but they connect you to the way families decorated for the past two centuries, and I do love the scent of fresh pine. I especially love Noble Firs, which I think are the finest shaped out there. There are some incredible life-like artificial trees as well, and I love the flocked ones that look like a winter wonderland forest. For kitchy fun, I get a kick out of a good aluminum tree from the 60’s. I remember saving my allowance when I was 11 to buy one for my bedroom from Woolworth’s.
Wade: Both (but nothing beats the smell of real).
Secret to a perfectly decorated home at the holidays?
Christopher: A bit of sparkle, a dash of music, a good holiday cocktail, and a whole lotta’ heart!!
Thank you, Christopher, for sharing, and for being part of this fun holiday giveaway. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night (and Good Luck)!