Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Christmas Village needs zoning restrictions

Well, folks, I've done it again. The world's most complicated Christmas decoration has been installed. I'm talking about my Christmas village. It takes up four shelves, a round table and the the writing surface of the secretary desk in the foyer. The round table sits under the shelves, adjacent to the secretary desk, so all six vignettes flow together. The secretary desk surface was this year's addition. I need to enact some serious expansion restrictions; there's nowhere else to go in the foyer, and when I suggested expanding to the shelves in the living room my huband just rolled his eyes.

This village started with a three ceramic houses from the Bi-Lo grocery about 12 years ago. They were about 8 inches tall, lit by a night light bulb, cutely detailed and on sale for $3.99 each. I bought them and set up a little mini-scene on the television cabinet with quilt batting for snow. Addictions always start small.

After Christmas I bought a fourth house at the Bi-Lo on a clearance sale for even less money. The next year the village had four buildings and some small pine trees from a Colony 21 store in the mall that specializes in these miniatures. The year after that I bought a set of carolers and a tiny park bench.

After that, well, it just got nuts. I now have fifteen buildings, from a church to a town hall, a community Christmas tree, a statue in the town square, two bridges, two skating ponds, farm animals, a Christmas tree stand, postmen, rock walls, a train track, cars, street signs, villagers - everything from a produce seller to a street sweeper, a lighthouse and a wharf!

The wharf was the most inspired addition. I saw a lighthouse at Wal-Mart and had to have it. Then I had to work it into the scene. So, I took three layers of foamcore board and made a base which steps down to the seashore. It sits on the round table under the shelves. The top of the slope has a gas station and a house (I say it's the lighthouse keeper's cottage). On the bottom at one side is a marina and at the other is the lighthouse. The wharf stretches out from the marina and has two small ships tied up. Workers roll barrels and carry bags from the wharf up the hill. An old sea salt sits on the marina porch and tells tall tales. There's a creek that drains into an inlet at the seashore with a frozen skating pond and a stone footbridge on the path from the house to the marina. Up by the gas station, the harbor master is helping some children make a snowman while an SUV is filling up at the pumps (ha ha, couldn't help it) and the greengrocer has set up a produce stand. He is filling the bins while his assistant argues with a chef about the produce.

Every part of the village is filled with little scenes like this, each one with a story. That's the part I love about it. It's not just a bunch of ceramic figures. As I put it together each year, I can vary what the citizens of my little world are doing. There are always some constants. The farmer is next to his barn, tending his cattle, the carolers are at the community Christmas tree next to the church, and three little boys congregate outside the high school, balancing their books on their heads and goofing off.

I can add street barricades and make road construction if I want. I can vary if the ambulance is in front of the hospital or on the road. The Pepsi delivery truck may be parked at the drugstore or it may be at the gas station. The vacationing couple with binoculars is at the inn out in the woods this year, but next year they may stay in town at the hotel. The raccoons are getting into the trash cans beside the brick barn, but they've gone to the farmhouse before.

It's all great fun. Every year I start browsing at the Ace Hardware to find a new addition to the village. Since there's no more room for building, I find new small accessories to create more detail. This year, I found small woodpiles, perfect for the farmhouse yard, and snow sleds which I leaned against the buildings near the front porches. It always snows in my village at Christmas and now the kids can go sledding. The boys next to the high school also now have bicycles to ride.

But the finishing touch came not from accessories I can buy for the village but from my sister-in-law's gift. She found a Christmas tree ornament at Hallmark of a Santa in an old Woodie convertible. He now sits at the railroad crossing on Main Street, waiting for the train to pass.

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