Debbie Arrington

If you’re a fan of Christmas, you’ll love this year’s theme by a distinctive decorator

Dozens of red and gold paper fans decorate Falcon Lee’s 2017 Christmas tree. The retired state worker makes most of his ornaments by hand.
Dozens of red and gold paper fans decorate Falcon Lee’s 2017 Christmas tree. The retired state worker makes most of his ornaments by hand.

The latest Christmas creation by Falcon Lee shows lots of fan spirit.

“The tree is interesting; everyone is a fan of something different,” Lee said. “So, I had fun with that idea.”

Lee, a retired state worker, folded eight dozen paper fans to decorate his one-of-a-kind themed tree, entitled “A Fan of ...”

“You may be a fan of the Kings,” he said. “I’m a fan of opera and Broadway shows and the wonderful architecture of Sacramento. That’s why I live downtown, to enjoy all the different architecture and the people who live here. We have so much diversity, here all together, in one community.”

For Lee, this shimmering totem pays tribute not only to the spirit of the season, but his Chinese cultural heritage. Red symbolizes good fortune and joy.

Every Christmas since 1972, Lee has decorated an elaborate tree. At his Victorian home in Mansion Flats, he spends countless hours hand-crafting ornaments, then meticulously places them on the branches.

Each tree has its own distinct theme. In 2016, angels made of cotton balls, gold ribbon and pipe cleaners danced among hand-cut Mylar stars in Lee’s interpretation of “Angels in the Stars.” In 2015, 13 dozen red cellophane hearts echoed his “Heart to Heart” theme.

Decorating such a big tree is a lot of work. He packs dozens of color-coordinated ornaments all the way to the trunk on the branches of the 10-foot white fir he selects from a tree farm in Apple Hill. In his own style, he tries to emulate the exquisite Christmas trees created by Podesta Baldocchi, the famous San Francisco florist where he apprenticed during his youth.

Budget wise, Lee has always made most of his ornaments. (For the fans, he used glossy red wrapping paper and metallic gold craft paper he found at Michaels.)

Part of his Christmas tradition may be coming to an end.

“This will be my last big tree,” he said. “At the age of 70, I just can’t go up and down the ladder to do the top of the tree – it’s 10 feet tall!”

But that doesn’t mean he’ll stop decorating. Lee has already decided a 2018 theme.

“Next year, it will be a little smaller (tree),” he said. “I’m going to set it on top of my coffee table and it’s going to be ‘Old Fashioned.’ ”

To Lee, “Old Fashioned” represents much more than Christmas Past.

“In my basement, I have boxes of ornaments beyond belief,” he said. “For 40 to 50 years, I’ve collected oddball things that people have given me. Each of these ornaments holds a special meaning to me about that person. So, I’m going to decorate that tree with memories.”