Christmas Village Displays
Christmas village displays are a beautiful addition to any holiday home. They are often placed beneath the Christmas tree but can be placed on mantles, countertops, and other areas. Small vignettes can be created on side tables or other surfaces around the house to add the charm and wonder of Christmas to any room. Some families have a large display and then several vignettes in unexpected places. How you decorate with them is up to you.
The Christmas village tradition was brought into my life by my husband whose family did this every year. It has been a tradition for me to buy him a new piece for "his" village each Christmas. Generally I try to get something that represents the year that is passing. The special piece was a recruiter's office the year our son joined the Air Force.
In this way the size of our village has built up until it is huge. Our children and grandchildren look forward to seeing it every year.
The History of Christmas Village Displays
Christmas village displays are a wonderful tradition that began with the Moravian tradition of putting a Nativity set or Putz beneath the tree. Over time the Nativity scenes became more and more elaborate and by the late 1700s could be found on mantles and china cabinets as well as under trees.
As the trend caught on people would spread straw, dirt, pebbles, and other items to make the scene look more and more realistic. The scenes started to contain other Bible stories like Noah's Ark. Craftsmen would carve animal figures, sometimes hundreds, to be placed near the Ark scenes.
By the mid 1800s these scenes were becoming more popular, more elaborate, and more secular. People, houses, stores, and other scenes common to daily life were often used. During Victorian times the villages were often given more honor than the tree. People sent hours setting everything up just right every year. By the early part of the 1900s toy trains were added to these small, bustling, cities.
Japan began mass producing inexpensive cardboard houses and other buildings after World War II. These buildings had holes cut into them so that Christmas lights could be inserted to make them look more real. Cellophane was used for windows. Now nearly anyone could afford these houses that flooded the market and they became more popular than ever.
In the early 1970s Department 56 and other companies began creating these village pieces in porcelain and ceramic. They were even more popular than the cardboard homes had been and collectors flocked to stores to buy them. Every year they retired some pieces and introduced new ones to keep the items collectible. Today these collectible Christmas houses can go for hundreds of dollars when they are in good condition.
Slideshow:Christmas Village PiecesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Collecting Antique Houses
You can often find these antique houses made of cardboard on eBay and once in a while you will find the very old hand carved items from the earlier centuries. Prices at Christmas time are understandably more than at other times of the year so if you want to start collecting these items try to wait until January!
Even so the prices can be reasonable. The vintage cardboard houses from the late 1940s and 1950s can often be found for 25.00 or less, while hand made fences and accessories form earlier times tend to start at around 50.00. As always ask lots of questions and be sure that you understand the seller's return policies. Check feedback and see what others say about the seller and his items.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Just choose a few pieces every year and soon you will have a huge display that the neighbors oooh and ahhh over every year. Store the houses in the original boxes, tagged with the dae you bought them for easy identification.
Most of all, have fun!