How We Display Our Christmas Snow Village
Growing up, I loved seeing different snowy Christmas Village displays at people's houses and knew I always wanted one. When I first brought this up to Kiersten as something we should start collecting, she was immediately against this. She's against "collecting" most things in general if it means "stuff" will accumulate. I think she pictured random buildings and houses lit up all over the place. And I think at one point she said collecting porcelain houses was for 80 year old grandmas. But I finally talked her into the idea of starting a Christmas Village collection at our old house because we had the perfect ledge for it above our front door in the 2-story entry. Once she realized I would be confined to just one ledge, she caved and gave me the green light to start my collection.
Selecting a Christmas Village Brand
We figured out quickly that there are a few different brands of villages that have different looking and scaled houses and buildings. You have to decide between different brands to make sure they go together.
We picked the Department 56 Original Snow Village which is one of the most well-known and common sets. Once I got the OK, I started exploring and found out buying the Snow Village brand new is really expensive. Luckily, I went online to one of my favorite "stores" and found out they have a ton... eBay is a great place to find snow village buildings and accessories. Basically, if you’re willing to pay the shipping you can get them at a decent price. Most of the pieces we've bought have been from the 80s or 90s.
Starting a Snow Village Collection
Kiersten thought this was going to be something we'd collect and build up over time. But once I started shopping, addiction quickly came into play. I couldn't buy just one, because you start thinking about everything you would need for this to actually be considered a real village. From city main streets to homes to churches to country clubs, you can basically buy anything you can imagine.
You also start thinking about your connections to people in your life and can buy buildings that represent people in your family. For example, my dad growing up worked at a bank and now sells antiques. Therefore, I had to have a bank and antique shop in my town.
My sister-in-law is named Chelsea so I had to buy the Chelsea Mansion.
Basically, it’s like playing Legos as a child, but you get to display it in public, and best of all they light up. To my wife’s surprise, everyone that comes to stare at them, gives really nice compliments.
Displaying the Village
Single Level Display
As I mentioned, in our old house we had a great ledge that ran above our front entry. It even had a power outlet. On our second year of the village, we bought snow looking styrofoam bases with different levels and our village was displayed in one long line. Since we were going to put these up on a second story, we set everything up to figure out the layout on the floor. Look how little the kids were.
The styrofoam bases made the village look cohesive. We "got brick road" plastic rolls that made the scene look even more realistic.
We strategically placed all the different parts of town together. We had our Main Street area, and what we called "Sherman Hill" which is an old historic area in downtown Des Moines with Victorian era homes, and further out our country homes, tree farm, green house and country club.
At dark, the glow of the village is awesome.
Multiple Level Display
After we moved to our new house we didn’t have a big ledge or obvious place to display them. We tried above the kitchen cupboards, but the trim around the top of cupboards was too deep to see and running extension cords all over the kitchen just wouldn’t look good.
In my basement I tried spreading them out in different areas, but it just didn’t look right and with young kids playing and throwing balls, it’s dangerous for my city. It's all porcelain and since I bought them used on Ebay, many are decades old.
Kiersten had the idea of putting them in our piano room. We have two matching shelves where normally we display pictures of our families.
Snow Village Accessories
You can buy whatever you want for your village - from trees to vehicles, to ice rinks, to people and roads, but having snow on the ground and blending in evergreen trees is the key to making things cohesive. Amazon has the cheapest trees to buy and have a variety of choices for you to select from.
Our styrofoam bases didn't fit on the new shelves, so we had to improvise. For the snow we use white fabric batting that you use in quilts and other sewing projects. It came in a roll and we just cut it to size. Eventually I think we'll figure out something a little sturdier and cut better to size.
Since most of our village was bought second hand, we decided to replace all of the light cords and bulbs. Some looked like they would be fire hazards and others were just really dated, and they all came with varying strength and shades of light. You can also buy cords with the exact number of houses or buildings you need to light up. This helps make it more organized, but you only need one cord per shelf.
The village lit up against the dark backdrop of the shelves is so awesome at night. If you get into village collecting know you'll need plenty of room to hide the cords. We have them hanging off the sides of the shelves, but they hide pretty nicely.
I’d recommend putting your bases and snow down first. Next, set your buildings where you want them. You will probably need to keep adjusting things to get your city the way you want it. Next, run your lights and plug them into each building. I always do this with the lights on to make sure they work. We have timers for each shelf so the lights turn on automatically with Kiersten's Christmas tree in the room in the morning for a couple hours and then again in the afternoon. Lastly, add your trees and other accessories.
Side for the full transition from our normal shelf to our village display.
PRO TIP: When you are happy with the village, take lots of pictures because it will save you a TON of time for set-up next year!
Need a Christmas village fix? Here's what we used:
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