A tree for grandma

LIMA — Betty Ann Langan’s children fondly remember her love for Christmas.

So after Langan’s death in 2019, her daughter, Jennifer Bockrath, took her daughters to the Allen County Museum to decorate a tree in Langan’s honor for the annual Christmas Tree Festival.

The tree was a rotating memorial to Langan’s favorite things: angels, books and her favorite color, blue.

“I thought it’d be a neat way to include mom in Christmas even though she’s gone,” Bockrath said.

Christmas was a special time for Langan, who was one of 10 children.

While her parents couldn’t afford many gifts, Langan focused her attention on holiday festivities instead. By the time Langan had children, she was throwing her own Christmas parties to keep the family together.

The tradition lapsed when Langan fell ill, so Bockrath and her brother rented out the Ohio Theatre to throw one last old-fashioned Langan Christmas as a gift to their mother, Bockrath recalls.

“It wasn’t about what she was getting,” Bockrath said. “It was about who was there. Instead of getting possessions, she was making memories. That’s something I try to instill in my kids.”

The Christmas Tree Festival, now in its 50th year, has become a new tradition for the Bockraths to keep Langan’s memory alive.

Each tree the Bockraths decorate is more elaborate than the last.

The decorating alone takes about six hours, Bockrath said. But brainstorming ideas starts months in advance.

There was the Christmas Story-themed photo shoot the Bockraths submitted in 2020 when the festival went virtual, and the Santa’s village scene of porcelain houses surrounding a tree made to look like the North Pole that the family decorated last December.

This year, the Bockraths decorated a seven-foot-wide archway framing a bench where children can sit and take photos with Santa.

The displays fill Bockrath with a similar satisfaction as her mother once felt.

“I like seeing the kids’ reactions to it,” she said. “The wonderment and the mystery and the surprise is all still there.”

Christmas Tree Festival

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, through Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Allen County Museum, 620 W. Market St., Lima. Special hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.