Christmas villages began during the 1700’s with the Moravians building a Putz. What’s a Putz? It’s a display featuring the nativity and tells the story though different scenes about Mary and Joseph on their journeys leading to the birth of Jesus.
As the years went by these displays became more elaborate and by the end of the 1700’s people would have nativity scenes in their homes under the tree, on the fireplace mantle and even in china cabinets. By the beginning of the 1800’s these scenes started to have other items added and stories began to unfold. By the Victorian era, the little villages would grow into elaborate pieces of art everyone could enjoy.
In the early 1900’s China began to manufacture inexpensive cardboard buildings that were affordable and could be used in Christmas villages. At the same time toy trains were being produced and starting to be used in Christmas villages across the country. By the 1970’s companies such as Department 56 began mass producing buildings that started people seriously collecting new items every year to build up their personal Christmas villages.
My Christmas village changes each year and shows off all different types of buildings. I have some originals made back in the 1900’s that I use every year. I also have trains, people, buildings, lights, trees, and snow.
There are three levels to my village where I display different sized buildings. I have five bought at Wal-Mart back in 2004 and all the rest were discovered at train shows or flea markets over the years. There is only one Department 56 item in the village and it’s a Mill Creek straight and bridge section.
On the top level is my N sale McKinley Explorer set. This level has buildings that don’t light up because they’re made of cast resin. Six of them are the Charles Dickens Village Collection. There are also some smaller versions of the older buildings from the early 1900’s. Above the town on the top level is my silver tree with white lights I found at Michael’s.
The second level consists of lighted buildings and my new ice skating rink. It has a Ferris wheel, carousel, gazebos, trees, skaters, lamp posts and various trees. There are seven people ice skating as the Ferris wheel slowly turns and the carousel spins. The lamp posts glow a warm yellow as the trees sparkle with snow. There are also two churches: a ceramic and the other made of a hard plastic. There’s even an older piece of Santa next to a lighted tree in front of a house.
Down on the first level is an On30 Christmas Trolley. This is an O scale narrow gauge type model train. The trolley circles around the town and even goes into a tunnel in the mountain. There are buildings made back during the 1900’s similar to the buildings on the top level but larger. There’s also a church made of hard plastic while the other buildings are ceramic.
I use standard C-7 incandescent lights to provide illumination in all my ceramic buildings. The older cardboard buildings are dark but I’m considering putting cool burning LED’s in them. For the accessories, I use AC transformers for the lighted pieces that normally use batteries. I power the entire Christmas village from one electric strip so with the flick of a switch I can turn everything on or off.
Christmas villages can be a fun, exciting and a magical hobby to get into. Whether it’s collecting the newest Department 56 building or the older Christmas village pieces from the past, the hobby is a great way to share your passion of Christmas with others.
This article was included in the November 2011 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By Darrel Moyer