Decor – Changing Christmas Displays (Part Two)

In the Changing Christmas Displays – Part One post, I discussed how I changed my Fontanini Nativity display from year to year.  I frequently change my seasonal displays by moving them into various rooms of our house or adding different accessories.  In Part Two, I will feature my Department 56 North Pole village display.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations is our Department 56 North Pole Village.  Almost twenty years ago I purchased four of these whimsical buildings; they were the Home of Santa & Mrs. Claus’ home, Santa’s Workshop, Elves’ Bunkhouse and Reindeer Barn.  I also purchased two other important pieces – Santa & Mrs. Claus and the sleigh and eight reindeer set (can’t have a North Pole without Santa!). Over the years, I have added other buildings and accessories, such as the North Pole Gate, the North Pole Train Station and North Pole Forge & Assembly Shop, Candy Cane Lamp Posts, a variety of elves figurines and other accessories.  When I unpack my Christmas boxes from storage every year, I always try to arrange the various North Pole buildings and accessories in different ways and sometimes I will also change the room where I set up the display. 

Shown below are photos from past North Pole Village displays: 

The first year I displayed the North Pole Village in our kitchen bookshelf.  It was very simple and small display with four buildings (Santa & Mrs. Claus’ home, Santa’s Workshop, Elves’ Bunkhouse and Reindeer Barn) and the North Pole Gate.  I used Styrofoam pieces used as platforms for each building and then I covered each shelf with white velvet material to create the illusion of snow (the white material was very inexpensive and it would be used repeatedly over the following years).  At the time, I only had a few accessory pieces which were Santa & Mrs. Claus, the sleigh and eight reindeer and two North Pole pine trees which were placed in the display. 


The next year I displayed the North Pole Village in the same kitchen bookshelf but arranged the buildings and accessories differently.  I also added several more accessories; such as elves and a few more Christmas trees.  As you can see from the photo above and the photo below, even though I was using the same buildings of my North Pole Village the display looks different from one year to the next.


The following year, I decided to move the North Pole Village into our living room.  The oak entertainment center had a shelf above the TV that was a perfect place for setting up the display.  I used the same buildings and accessories which I arranged on several different sized boxes to create some interest with a variety of levels and then covered everything with the white velvet material.  Next, I placed the four North Pole buildings and the North Pole Gate onto the shelf.  That year I added a few new pieces; the North Pole Train Station, the North Pole Express Train and the Ticket Booth which were placed on the far right side of the shelf.  Of course, I bought several more elves to add to the display … you could never have too many elves at the North Pole!  I also purchased three sets of three resin Christmas trees for a total of nine trees and I placed these around the display (these trees are an example of using non Department 56 pieces in a display and they were less expensive).


The next Christmas, we had recently moved from California to the Midwest and our new living room had wonderful built-in wooden bookcases on either side of the fireplace and this is where I set up the North Pole Village.  I arranged the five North Pole Village and North Pole Gate on two shelves and once again I used several different boxes to create a variety of levels covered with the white material.  I had bought a new Department 56 North Pole piece called “Untangling the Christmas Lights” and it was added to the display.  When shopping that year I found a set of miniature “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” ornaments and also a set of resin rock wall which I thought would be great additions to the display (these ornaments and the rock wall would be another example of using non Department 56 pieces).

2007 Christmas 1

For Christmas the following year I had added a three piece Styrofoam base which I had purchased the previous year at an after-Christmas clearance sale.   The base would prove to be very versatile because it could be placed linked together for one long piece or separated and stacked to create two levels (this is a great example of shopping and taking advantage of sale items after the holidays)  To conceal the three separate pieces and create a unified look, I sprinkled artificial snow.  I also added a background using a tri-fold display foam boards usually used for school projects or presentations, I painted the board with blue metallic paint and clear sparkle paint.  As you can see from the two photos below, the one on the left shows an electrical outlet that I wanted to hide and the one on the right shows the background board which cleverly covers the outlet while enhancing the overall look to the display (this is an example of solving the problem of unsightly outlets, cords, etc.).

2011 Christmas North Pole Village  2011 Christmas North Pole Village with background

The next year I decided to move the North Pole displayto the fireplace mantel in our living room.  Throughout the year a beautiful English landscape painting normally hangs over the fireplace and I replaced it with a special Christmas sign that I made using a Christmas window/wall decal that said “Santa Claus is coming to town” which I knew would look great with my North Pole Village displayed underneath it on the fireplace mantel.  The sign is accented with bronze jingle bells that were the perfect decorative touch!  Next, I used two of the base sections but I had to make a third section because the original middle one was too wide to fit the narrow fireplace mantel.  Then I set out four North Pole buildings, the North Pole Gate and the various accessories.  (This display was featured in a previous post from my blog and for more detailed information on how it was created please click on the link to Setting up a Department 56 Village)

2012 Christmas  Family room fireplace mantel

The following year I decided to move the North Pole display to the library in our home.  I set the display on the same long table that I had previously put my Fontanini Nativity display.  I started by covering the table with burgundy material (this fabric has been used over several Christmas seasons and has been repurposed from year to year)  Then, I used the same three base section from the previous year as well as the four North Pole buildings, the North Pole Gate and accessories.

2014 Christmas 3

The next year I set-up the North Pole display in the same place in our library.  The only difference this time was the addition of a new North Pole building, the North Pole Forge & Assembly Shop.

2015 Christmas

As this post has shown in detail, a Department 56 display can be frequently changed from year to year by moving it to different rooms or areas of your home and also by adding accessories or other decorations to the display.  I hope this will inspire my readers to think about the options for displaying a nativity set in several different ways!

Decor – Department 56 North Pole Village

North Pole Village 2012

The Department 56 North Pole Village is one of the highlights of our Christmas decorations.  It brings me great joy to create something whimsical for the family during the holiday season.  Even with the same main buildings displayed every year; such as Santa’s Workshop, Elves’ Bunkhouse, Reindeer Barn and Santa and Mrs. Clause’s Home and the North Pole Gate – the display can look different from one year to the next.

When I unpack the boxes from storage every year, I will try to arrange the various buildings and accessories in different ways.  Some years I will even display the Department 56 North Pole in a different room of the house.  Last year I added a mountain platform and a blue sky background.  Please, take a look at the photos below and see how the display has changed over the years.

So, if you have one of the Department 56 villages, think about displaying it in a new way or perhaps even in a different room.  Maybe purchase another building or accessory to add to the collection.  Suddenly, with a little creativity or spending just a little money, a Christmas village can look fresh and new.


History of the Department 56 Villages

Over 25 years ago Department 56 began as a part of the premiere retail florist, Bachman’s, in Minneapolis, MN.  Bachman’s used a numbering system to identify each of their departments and the number assigned to the wholesale gift department was 56.  Department 56 has been a leader in the collectible, home and holiday decorative products and is now a division of the Enesco Company.

Known for their Christmas Village and Snowbabies collections, the brand began with the Snow Village six ceramic houses in 1976.  Some of the names of the original houses were the Mountain Lodge, Gabled Cottage and Inn.  Currently the collection consists of over 225 pieces and accessories.

The Heritage Village Collection started with the porcelain Dickens Village in 1984.  The charming houses depict the time of Charles Dickens and are named for places or characters relating to the stories he wrote.  Some of the pieces are The Old Curiosity Shop, Scrooge and Marley Counting House and the Cottage of Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

The New England Village was introduced in 1986 and includes churches, such as the Old North Church in Boston, lighthouses and other buildings and places in the New England area.

The Alpine Village collection started in 1986 and some of the pieces have very European names, such as Josef Engel Farmhouse, Bessor Bierkeller and St. Nicholas Kirche Church.

The Christmas in the City collection was introduced in 1987 and depicts American life from 1930 to1940.  Pieces include the Palace Theatre, Ritz Hotel, Dorothy’s Dress Shop and St. Mark’s Church.

The North Pole Series started in 1990 and the first pieces introduced were Santa’s Workshop, Elf Bunkhouse and Reindeer Barn.

The Little Town of Bethlehem collection was issued in 1987 and there were only twelve pieces.

For further information on Department 56 Villages or to see what houses and accessories are currently available or to get additional ideas see their website.