Our Christmas Village
by Troy Bettridge
Each year we enjoy setting up our "village". The village started out as a starter kit with 3 pieces on our first Christmas. It has become quite the family tradition. We have added a piece or two each year after and it has grown into a mini-metropolis. Almost all of the pieces are all from Mervyn's Village Square.
The kids love to help lay out the buildings, place the people and especially throw the snow.
The pieces have become harder to come by now that they have closed Mervyn's here in Oklahoma, but they come up once and a while on Ebay.
I keep each of the pieces in their original boxes for a few reasons. One - it will be handy if we move again; two - it keeps the buildings and the foam packing relatively clean, and lastly, if I ever have to sell any pieces, I will have the original boxes.
The next step is taking each building out of its box and setting aside the foam for use under the buildings. We have marked each piece of foam with the name of the building that it goes to. This makes putting them away much easier.
The next step is separating out the different buildings - this comes from my architectural background or my master’s degree in urban planning. We try to have residential neighborhoods, a downtown area and a historic district, because this particular brand of village pieces ( Mervyn's Village Square) has some older buildings from the "Dickens" era, as well as Victorian and even a few modern buildings.
Our next step is to build a sturdy base. I have a few sheets of plywood that have been cut in half. I keep these in the garage and drag them out for the village. We set them on some sturdy boxes that I also keep in the attic.
I like being able to look down on the village. It is also a good height for little kids to be able to observe. It also gives it a more professional look than just setting it on the floor. I think placing each building at different heights and creating hills and vistas makes the village really come to life.
One year we decided to do one giant sloping hill. We built up the area with the foam packing from the boxes. It doesn't have to be pretty because it all gets covered with fabric and "snow". In previous years we have put a hill in the middle. One of the fun things about the village is that it is different every time we put it up!
We move the buildings around and position them and try to get them at a height that is just right. We also try to position the buildings in some sort of logical order. This is mostly my idea, but the kids play along!
The next task, once all of the buildings are placed, is placing the white fabric under the buildings. We use the light-weight batting that is sold in hobby stores. After it is fairly even, we poke holes in the fabric for the lights. This takes some work moving the buildings off and on but it is the best way that I have found to hide all of the extension cords under the fabric.
We have some street lights that we use with our village. These use small Christmas lights. After having a hard time trying to get them to stand up straight the first year, we painted wooden craft sticks white and hot glued them to the base of each light pole. The craft stick and the cord are also concealed under the fabric. The stick can also be placed under the edge of a building or piece of foam to keep the light in place.
We make some final adjustments on the 'skyline', then get out all of the accessories to make it really come to life. People, pets, trees, fences, signs, benches, and even deer all around the city.
The last (and most fun part) is sprinkling on the snowflakes. We used large 3 bags for this display. I like the kind that is ground up plastic shavings and a mixture of iridescent glitter. It looks great reflecting the light. OK, the actual last part is vacuuming up whatever has fallen on the floor!
The other thing that I really like about the village is the lights and shadows that reflect all around the room.
When we moved into our new house last year, at first I had been going back and forth between setting up the Christmas village upstairs in the new studio, or finding a more public place for it. It doesn't help matters that our living room is octagon shaped with traffic coming and going from 4 sides. Then it hit me!
I could move the couch out a couple of feet from the window, and wind the village around the back. Kind of like a window display. I decided to add a dramatic slope down to the floor on the kitchen side so that my little nieces and nephews could enjoy the view too.
I stacked two empty plastic tubs under the sheet of plywood to give it the desired height.
I cut a piece of foam core to fit the oddly shaped corner of the octagon-shaped living room and I traced around the curve of our sectional.
I supported it with 3 smaller plastic tubs left over from our move.
The next step was building up areas with the pieces of foam and creating the sloping mountain down to the lower level. I think adding a lot of variety in the terrain makes the village more interesting.
We did a preliminary layout of the village and moved the foam around until everything looked just about right.
The fabric batting and fake snow smooths out the ups and downs.
I hope you enjoy the village as much as we do each year!
You are welcome to visit my blog, Tulsa Tiny Stuff.