Appetite For Celebrations

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Enjoying the holidays with family, friends and food.

Filling the home with the spirit of Christmas and plenty of holiday cheer is an annual tradition for this metro couple.

Story by Ann Butenas    |    Photos by Matthew Anderson

After Dave and Denise Eckert load their selected Christmas tree on top of their SUV the day after Thanksgiving and head home, the real work begins, but not without a heaping helping of fun at the ready to set the holiday spirt in motion.

“My two favorite days of the season are the day we put up the tree and decorations and the day we take them all down,” laughed Dave, former KMBC Channel 9 news anchor and now an Instagram favorite with Eats and Drinks with Dave. Dave truly seems to delight in all things festive when it comes to this bright and cheery time of year. After all, there is a lot of celebrating going on between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and the Eckerts know how to keep the festivities in high gear throughout the season.

Together for 36 years and blessed with two kids, both of whom are now young adults, the Eckerts sprinkle holiday cheer in many places throughout their spacious Liberty, Missouri home. A total of four trees anchor the overall stage: the real one in the great room; and artificial ones in the hearth room and two on the finished lower level. While most of the ornaments that adorn the trees have been acquired by the family over the years, there are a few that have traveled with Dave and Denise from their respective childhoods. Decorating this home is a true art form, and Denise has it down to a science.

“I do a majority of the decorating,” said Denise, who prefers to not overdo the look with too much clutter, but enough to set a perfect holiday stage throughout the home. But it’s not just Denise who wrangles the props to promote the festivities.

“My son and I are tasked with this amusing, and at the same time, infuriating task of putting up the tree in the great room,” said Dave. “We usually get a tall tree – around 10 to 12 feet – as this room has an 18-foot ceiling.”

Once up and on display, it’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the season. Taking a stroll around this home can make even the biggest Scrooge shed any negativity and begin to delight in the celebrations to come.

Accent pieces displayed throughout the great room, such as a wreath atop the fireplace, a poinsettia on the floor, and a silver bowl filled with ornaments on a nearby coffee table balance the holiday ambiance.

The dining room with its red walls is the perfect room to accentuate with holiday accessories. Denise has artfully arranged the buffet table with lights, candles, a decorative tree and garland while the dining room table greets guests with a reindeer statue and more greenery atop a red table runner. A table by the window is host to the tiny village set, which is something Denise purchased over a period of a few years and is a standard display piece each Christmas.

“Our college-aged daughter puts this up for us now and it looks pretty when lit up at night,” noted Denise.

In the hearth room just off the kitchen, another tree stands by the window, perfectly adorned in a variety of ornaments and lights, offering a more casual vibe to the space. The downstairs tree next to the piano enjoys an accompaniment of pinecones, cranberries and lights, while lighted garland flowing down the bannister of the main staircase greets guests upon arrival and reminds them that, yes, this is Christmas and it is time to relax and enjoy time with each other.

Holiday parties are always at top of mind for Dave and Denise. In the past they had an annual event at their home with at least 60 guests in attendance. Unfortunately, they found their party conflicted with an annual gathering of a friend’s. As such, they decided to collaborate on the festivities and merge both of their celebrations, alternating years in which they would host the event.

“It was my friend’s idea to rotate and share the party and Denise was all for it,” said Dave, who, along with Denise, loves preparing mouth-watering goodies for the occasion.

Despite a large gathering with their annual party with friends, Christmas dinner with the Eckert family tends to be a relatively small affair.

“Dave and I are only children and both sets of our parents are gone,” Denise indicated. As such, they usually enjoy their holiday meal with their 25-year-old son and a daughter who is a senior in college.

No matter the gathering or day of the season, the Eckerts revel in every single minute.  After all, this truly is a magical season.

“Christmas is my favorite time of year,” smiled Denise. “I love getting all cozy with the fire going and enjoying great food. Dave is a great cook and does a lot of the cooking, but I prepare the Christmas dinner.”

Dave extends equal praise to Denise for her culinary endeavors.

“Denise is the baker and master of desserts,” he said. “Her sticky toffee pudding is a favorite treat every Christmas.”

Even though Dave, too, enjoys the highlights of the season, he has no shame in admitting that when’s it’s over, it’s over.

“My two favorite days are (1) when all of the decorations and trees are up and the house smells good and is so festive and beautiful and then (2) when it is all down and cleaned up and the decorations are meticulously stored and labeled for use next year,” he reflected. More than likely however, Dave, a culinary visionary, is already contemplating the food and beverage choices for next Christmas!

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