On Hilton Head Island, there are parties and there are parties. That second type is the kind that people look forward to all year long. They mark their calendars well in advance, arrange for babysitters, and watch the days roll by as their excitement builds.

Paula Traver’s annual Christmas do is just such a party.

HHM Xmas 005“I love being with my family and my friends, and I am very blessed to have so many wonderful friends down here,” Traver said. Lavishly decorated and boasting a gourmet spread of specially prepared cuisine, her annual shindig’s guest list has grown over the years to well over 100.Preparations begin the day after Thanksgiving, when Traver and her family pull out Christmas décor that occupies roughly a third of their spacious attic. Then they get to work decking the halls with countless trinkets, wreaths, garlands and seasonal delights, to say nothing of three 12-foot Christmas trees, each with its own theme and colors.“Every year I mix it up. I have a huge snowman collection that moves from room to room each year,” Traver said. “When the family arrives we have a contest where you count how many snowmen are in the house.”Last year there were 105 and Traver plans to add more this year. The centerpiece of the whole affair is an 80-piece Christmas village, a beautifully crafted landscape of small-town charm that takes Traver three days to assemble.

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“That’s the biggest labor of love there is,” she said.

Outside, Traver has Branches in the Village at Wexford set the mood with delightful swags and wreaths donning every tree, bush and door.

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“I’m very proud of how the house comes together,” she said. “It takes a lot of time, but it’s all worth it.”

With the stage set, it’s time to welcome the legion of guests who attend. One part cookie swap, one part gift exchange, and several parts old-fashioned festival of cheer, Traver pulls out all the stops for her annual fete.

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The pastries and cookies in the accompanying photos came from Carrie Castano of Custom Confections in Bluffton, and for everything else there’s her family’s own traveling chef, son-in-law Gerrard Ball. The husband of daughter Jillian, he flies in every year from London to oversee the kitchen.

“It’s a British afternoon tea theme, so everything’s authentic,” Traver said. “I have a good team in place and I’m very blessed that the whole family chips in.”

While it’s a team effort, the result is a legendary party that has earned Traver the nickname, “The Queen of Christmas.”

“If my legacy is to be known as the Queen of Christmas, I will wear the tiara proudly,” she said.