Five women from Ohio come to the Lodi area for one reason only — to see and possibly purchase handmade 6-foot-tall figures of Father Christmas on display at Berghold Winery.
They’re handmade by Kay Berghold, who owns the winery with her husband, Joe. They all have an Austrian theme, but each one is different.
“The five women call me in November and say, ‘We’re coming,’ ” Berghold said. “They fly from Ohio every year, and they come just for us. They stay at Wine & Roses for one night and fly home the next day.”
Berghold began creating Father Christmases when they opened their winery seven years ago. Her first attempt at sewing was when she was in third grade. She went to a fabric store and made a dress for her mother on the family’s sewing machine.
“He who dies with the most fabric wins,” Berghold says.
Her creations appear to be an old-fashioned Eastern European Santa Claus, but Berghold maintains they aren’t Santas.
“We label them Father Christmas rather than Santa Claus or St. Nick,” she said.
In Austria, the customs differ from culture to culture, Berghold said. Some children wouldn’t understand what Santa Claus means.
“I’m a Santa Claus widower,” husband Joe quipped.
It’s not really that bad, Kay Berghold says. She works on her Father Christmases throughout the year, but usually at night until 1 a.m.
“I have started next year’s now,” Kay Berghold said.
Once she completes a Father Christmas, her daughter-in-law, Julia Berghold, composes a story about that particular Father Christmas. One on display at the winery is named Josef, who’s from a town nestled against the Australian Alps. Julia has Josef traveling across European and Mediterranean countries to explore his interest in art and history.
“They’re based on European towns, names and things that happened in those towns,” Julia Berghold said. “I picked towns of historic interest.”
Julia Berghold doesn’t name the Father Christmas or compose a mini-biography right away.
“I wait for them to be completed,” she said. “I want to see their personality.”
One Father Christmas, for example, has a beard made of Mongolian lamb provided by someone in Canada. The hat is made of recycled furs, and the clothing is lined with silk, Kay Berghold says. Another one has a fruit theme, while yet another is based on wine.
“I don’t think there’s anything like it in California,” her proud husband says. “They’re works of art.”
Winery visitors can come view the elaborate decorations. If you want to buy one, they’re in the $3,000 range (”I don’t make any money off it,” Kay Berghold says).
The Father Christmas display will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through Christmas. The winery is at 17343 N. Cherry Road, just north of Victor Road. For more information, call 209-333-9291.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.