31 Things in December: Do you collect anything Christmasy?

As part of an effort to use my blog more, I’ve decided to write at least a post a day regarding the holiday season. With the help of my friend Stephanie, who gave me 31 ideas to blog about, I hope to complete this event and share some of my love of the season with you.

I’ve always had a love of train displays and miniature buildings. Add to that my love of Christmas and a quant New England village at winter comes alive underneath the family tree.

Since the early- to mid-90s, I’ve collected Lemax — and to a lesser extent some other brands — miniature buildings, scenery and figures.

But a village beneath our tree has been a tradition for as long as I can recall. In the early ’90s, I used to set up a train and rural/farm village. Many of the buildings dated back to when my uncle was young. Most were made of plastic. I even added some pieces from my Micro Machines collection.

There was a diner, a school, a store and a barn that served as a place for the townsfolk to celebrate Christmas.

Then, we began buying some pieces from Kmart, which sells the Lemax line. Our collection began even earlier than that with three houses from a Christmas Around the World collection.

The plastic farm village and train was retired and replaced with more Lemax pieces.

To date, I probably own between 20 and 30 buildings — I’ve purchased or been given at least one per year since the mid-90s.

The village tends to take on similar themes each year — the church usually serves as the focal point, shoppers leave Foley’s Pharmacy with last-minute goods, children build snowmen and others gather ’round the town tree singing carols.

In 2009, I added the Daily Gazette (imagine that), the town newspaper.

This year, a Lands’ End store shares the focal point with the church, sitting next to each other where the two main streets in town meet.

When I completed the village, my mom said there was an area I neglected placing figurines.

“I know,” I said. “I bought a parade.”

“You did what?” she said.

“I bought a parade,” I said.

As soon as my Sears/Kmart delivery arrives, I’ll have a parade, complete with a band and floats to add to Main Street. The parade will be the focal point of the village this year, which is why Lands’ End shares the spotlight.

Since I don’t have a department store (I’ve been searching high and low for a department store piece!), I’ve decided the Lands’ End Christmas Parade will march through town, right past the post office and continuing past the parade’s sponsor and down beyond Patty’s Pub.

There’s something about the quant village that attracts me to it. I am envious of those figurines who live there. The village represents a time when townspeople spent the day in a downtown business district, shopping, eating, enjoying the sights and sounds, then returning home with their packages.

My mom often tells me stories of shopping in Downtown Pittsburgh, when Kaufmann’s, not Costco, was king. Though Pittsburgh’s downtown center differs greatly from the village my town represents, it’s that small-town, neighborly feel of being waited on by shop owners or folks who appreciate the services and items they’re selling that mean so much.

Today, Christmas shopping for many means fighting angry mobs of shoppers all trying to catch the same mass-produced items, or being alone in a bedroom punching in credit card numbers on a website.

So what’s the name of my village? Well, it changes yearly as do many of the buildings displayed. Last year, I referred to it as “Christmastowne.” I wasn’t fond of that, and I’m really focused on creating a name and a story for the village. Lemax offers names of villages the company has themed various miniature buildings around, but I’d prefer a unique name and story.

My collection includes a ski lift, two lighthouses (it is, after all, a New England-based village), a forge, greenhouse, hotel, several residences and much more.

One piece I’ve yet to add is radio station KJOY, playing all of your favorite Christmas music. I haven’t purchased it yet, but know it’s next.

And I don’t just collect any village piece. Lemax is my No. 1 spot for village pieces, followed by the St. Nicholas Square village sold at Kohl’s. My least favorite mass-produced village is the one sold at Walmart. The pieces are noticeably different from Lemax, whereas, the village from Kohl’s blends perfectly.

Even though Lemax is my favorite, I still find that I’m extremely picky when it comes to what I’d like to add. For instance, Lemax offers an insurance company building. While it looks OK, it doesn’t fit my dream town.

One day, I’d love to add a train display and have an area to permanently display my village. Some day.

Until then, I’ll enjoy my small town for the five or six weeks each year it comes to life.

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