12 Days

Collectibles play a big part of many holiday traditions. Ornaments, lights, nativities and decorations of all sorts are used year after year and create memories of their own. One popular collectible displayed this time of year is the Christmas village. Manufacturers like Department 56 and Lemax have numerous series that diehard fans collect over the years. From tabletop vignettes with just a few pieces to lifelike cities with streets, traffic lights and more, these miniature metropolises come to life every December.

Tiny Tim close up

There aren’t any strict rules to creating a village display and you are only limited by your creativity and vision. But, how you display your village depends largely on how much space you have to devote to your collection. Purist villagers will say that the entire display has to be kept together while others choose to break up their village into stylish vignettes.

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Either way, here are some helpful hints to make your village come to life.

1- Start by planning your display. Since most of the buildings and even some accessories require electrical cords, you’ll want to plan a rough layout of your village prior to wiring.

2- Create multiple levels for your display using sheets of white styrofoam packing or insulation. You can cut your styrofoam with a knife to mimic the jagged edges of snow or you can use an electric carving tool which literally melts the styrofoam for even more elaborate cuts. Varying the heights of your buildings by layering styrofoam to create hills and valleys will give your village a more realistic look and give you more opportunities to hide the cords. Remember to vary the direction of buildings too so they aren’t all facing forward.

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3- Speaking of hiding the cords, once you have your buildings in place and wired, take a little extra time to make sure all the cords and adapters are hidden. Bobby pins can be pushed into the styrofoam to help hide and control unruly wires. Cotton batting can fill in gaps and hide power strips and cords while finer faux snow can soften the edges of buildings, trees and figurines for a seamless appearance.

4- Just like any other decorative display, what really finishes your village are the accessories. Trees, fences, ponds, lights, signs, and people will bring your village to life. Fluff and shape village trees for a more realistic look. Use mirrors to create ponds for skaters and boats. Fencing and rock wall accessories are another great way to hide cords. Of course, no village would be complete without inhabitants, so fill your display with happy villagers.

North Pole 2011

5- While the buildings themselves cast some light, make sure your display has other sources of light to illuminate the streets and figurines. Nearby lamps can be used to highlight your display. Strings of Christmas lights, especially strands of glimmer or “rice” lights can be tucked around nicely and bring more dim corners to life.

Dickens Bookcase

6- Changing your display yearly will keep your village looking new and fresh without necessarily having to add new pieces. Try displaying your village in different parts of your home. As tempting as it is to put them on ledges, it’s always easier to enjoy miniatures when you can get up close and see the all the magnificent details in these little works of art. Try setting up a small display on a sleigh or wagon. Build a platform in a steamer trunk or empty your bookcases and create vignettes on each shelf. Put a vignette on your foyer table or bedroom dresser.

Ralphie 2014