For nearly 40 years, first on Oahu and then 18 years on Kauai, a woman by the name of Josie Chansky opened her home to neighbors, strangers, tourists – everyone and anyone. People just started showing up on her lawn and then at her door. They wanted to see all the Christmas folk art decorations that “Auntie” Josie created and displayed on the outside and inside of her home. Auntie Josie’s home became known as “The Christmas House.” Generations of families began making “The Christmas House” part of their holiday traditions to see favorites such as a Christmas tree made of 7,500 green toothpicks, wreaths formed from egg cartons, table decorations constructed with seed pods, and a chandelier fashioned from wire coat hangers.
The Hawaii House of Representatives even recognized her in 1975. Auntie Josie received a Resolution for her contribution to the world of children in establishing a magnificent showplace depicting the holiday season.
But then Auntie Josie’s husband passed away in 1996. Out of grief and the knowledge that she did not have the strength to put up all the decorations herself, Auntie Josie held a garage sale. Luckily, the loss of “The Christmas House” to the community was recognized and her entire collection was saved by a community member and donated to the County of Kauai.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Festival of Lights. This event is run and funded by community volunteers. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the Opening Ceremony on December 1, where Auntie Josie’s entire collection opens for a month-long display at the Historic County Building. Festival of Lights also includes a lighting ceremony, a lights parade, Santa & Mrs. Clause, choirs and more. Auntie Josie is on hand to talk about her collection most days. She is joined by volunteer docents.