My mother used to decorate a Christmas village under our Christmas tree every year. It was quite elaborate. Lots of ceramic houses. A few wooden houses and some that were styrofoam. She would borrow stacks of books from my bookshelf and position them under a giant white bed sheet to create a mini-mountain for her skier figurines. And she’d use a small, vanity-size mirror to create a small ice skating rink. My sister and I would sometimes help her arrange the little people and the houses just so under the tree. Presents were always stacked on either side of the tree to make sure there was room. I loved this Christmas village 🙂
Flash forward about 30 years to when I first discovered the Department 56 collection. We were visiting some friends – Jack and Michelle – whose wedding we’d recently attended. Michelle had a pretty sizable collection of Department 56 houses. I learned from her all the different styles you could collect: The Dickens Village, Christmas in the City, the New England Series, and so on. I was hooked. I had my favorites, but I didn’t limit myself to any one collection.
I decided then that I wanted to carry on the Christmas village tradition and start my own collection.
My first “house” was The Wedding Shop (second shelf from the bottom – second one from left). It was a gift from my parents for my and my husband’s first Christmas after we were married in 1999. From there, my collection steadily grew.
I was deliberate in the pieces I chose, carefully selecting only the ones I liked. I’m not one that goes for the showiness of the fanciest collectibles or even the ones that will fetch the most money years from now. I’d rather have pieces that mean something to me and my family.
This is my collection.
I’m thrilled this is the first year I’ve had the space to display all of them. Admittedly some pieces are Department 56, but others are from Jo-Ann Fabric. A few years ago they had a line of collectible Christmas houses that I really liked and that were a fraction of the cost of Department 56. From Jo-Ann’s I found:
A stone church – first shelf, far right. It reminds me a little of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame in Paris.
And on the second shelf there’s a dance studio, which I bought when my 11yo first started taking dance lessons; a Victorian house with a wrap-around porch that reminds me of the town where I grew up; and a log cabin house (dream home!)
For years, many of these pieces were packed away. Our homes never really offered a space that could accommodate them without it being too crowded. While it isn’t under our tree as my mother’s was, I’m thrilled we now have a space to devote to these little buildings that bring me and my daughters some smiles at Christmas. The other night they helped me unpack them from the boxes, picking out their favorites and arranging them on the shelves.
I love carrying on old traditions while starting new ones.