89-year-old hosts yearly Christmas wonderland in Morton Grove

December 21, 2012 (MORTON GROVE, Ill.)

That's exactly what 89-year old Ronnie Sander does.

When you step inside Sander's Morton Grove home this time of year you step into a miniature winter wonderland. Ronnie will be 90 next month, but she is still as busy as one of Santa's brownies. It's when Ronnie pulls her large family in close around her heart.

"I just love to have Christmas... and all the children love to come here and enjoy it," said Sander.

And when kids, grandkids and great grandkids add up to 45 -- that means there had better be plenty of Christmas atmosphere, and there is. The centerpiece is the living room tree. It's a work in progress that began in 1975.

"Estimate is 700 ornaments on and 1,800 lights," said Sander. She says the ornaments are all Hallmark.

This all begins at Thanksgiving, when Ronnie and one of her sons begin the process of turning her house into this fantasyland. Then the rest of her large family chips in, and it's all completed within four days. It's a family effort, but it's really all about Ronnie.

"She makes Christmas for all of us. Just her happiness and her excitement, and we've always said that she thinks she's Mrs. Claus," said Ronnie's daughter, Lynne Joyce.

The story of Ronnie Sander and her love of Christmas didn't just begin this year, of course, it goes way back to her childhood.

"Well, my father had passed away when I was 11, and mom said, 'there's no Christmas this year -- no tree.' So I put a sheet down where the tree was -- and my little packages. And then I went to bed, and when mom came home, she saw it. She went out to the tree lot, picked up a tree, came home, decorated it -- and when I woke up the next morning, it was a miracle. The tree was there, all decorated," said Sander.

Now, all these years later, that magic continues: the magic of trees and lights and reindeer and a guy named Santa.

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