I started this Dept 56 collection when I returned to the USA from living in Austria in 1991. It started with just the church building. Over the years, the collection grew. One year I was able to take advantage of a shop owner retiring and selling, at a great discount, all of their display accessories, trees, buildings and people. One of my favorites I acquired at the sale is the Tally Ho Fox Hunt set of 5 pieces. As the collection of buildings grew, I realized it is the people that create the most interest in the scene.
I remember my children gathering around as I set out each piece. They even bought some of the vendors and people as gifts to me and were thrilled to see them used every year thereafter. Once my daughter was old enough, she started helping me with the set up. One year, life was pretty difficult and I just didn’t have the energy to set it up. When she found out my plan to skip it, she couldn’t fathom Christmas without the village and so she set it up entirely on her own! It amazes me to find out how much traditions mean to children – they tell you when you stop doing it. I remember the first Halloween I failed to make hot apple cider. My teenage son came bounding down the stairs to the kitchen – crushed that I had stopped “the tradition”. I had no idea it meant something to him!
I start by laying a white tablecloth and then a layer of snow blanket on the piano. I use wire led battery string lights between the layers to light up the areas where there are no houses. I then place the styrofoam platforms (many varieties available on Etsy). The different elevations help give more interest to the overall layout. I use clumps of cotton snow to hide the cords and sprinkle artificial snow flakes around for the final touch. I use timers to turn the lights on and off, to save me from crawling under the piano all month long!
When my collection became too big for the piano top, my mom and step-dad built the corner “tree” shelf for me as a Christmas gift! I make this the rural setting – cottage homes, the Gin Distillery, the church and cemetery.
To connect the piano scene and the corner tree scene, I use a large 30×40 canvas print of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post “Tiny Tim”. (I found this using a 50% coupon at AllPosters.com) It helps to fill the emptiness on that wall created by lowering the piano lid. I finish the space by changing out the contents of the large coffee table vessel to work with the year’s theme colors.
We have had the Advent House for our kids nearly as many years as the village pieces. Now it is the grandkids who look forward to receiving the Advent treats during their visits as we look around the activities taking place in the nearby Dickens’ Village.
I hope you enjoy your Christmas decorating traditions this year.
If you don’t have one, consider starting one.
Merry Christmas and God Bless us everyone!