The Iowan


Celebrate Throughout The Year

By Leigh Gieringer

Part I: February/March

It might be a sign of age, or that we are always busy, but each year goes by quicker and quicker and quicker. Wasn’t it just yesterday that 2012 began? It’s now 2013. Last year’s Christmas holiday displays are down or soon will be. But, “little building syndrome” still is alive and well. Who wants to wait until next season to enjoy their village pieces again? How do we cope? The answer is to develop vignettes that can be placed on small tables, mantels, book shelves, niches, plant shelves or any available space.

There are numerous smaller holidays occurring in February and March corresponding with the timeline of this current issue. There are also numerous building choices to highlight each of these holidays enabling collectors to have their village and enjoy it, too!

Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake, February 10-24 

There are several Department 56 pieces with an Oriental theme. Snow Village collectors can feature their “Lucky Dragon Restaurant” in a mini display in anticipation of the Chinese New Year. There are many non-Department 56 Oriental items that can be placed near the piece. Some items for consideration would include bamboo mats or wooden baskets as a base, chop sticks, bonsai trees and miniature Oriental figures. Searching out complimentary items can be the fun part in creating these mini displays. Many useful accessories for all these displays can be found at craft stores, dollar stores, garage sales, import stores, and big box stores. Most of the accompanying items should be relatively inexpensive. Feature items, such as the building(s), accessories that were intended to coordinate with the building and any larger atmosphere items may be more costly. 

Heritage Village collectors have a nice selection, as well. Dickens’ Village collectors can incorporate the “Canton Tea Trading” (pictured) piece into their display, while Christmas in the City offers the popular “Wong’s in Chinatown” and the “Jade Palace Chinese Restaurant.” This duo has a similar sized footprint, are dominantly red, and make a dynamic pairing. Add the “Canton Tea Trading” piece for an extra punch. In addition to the above items, the display can be accented by using tiny red lanterns, a waterfront, tiny dragons, and of course, add a few snakes this year — or not! 

Chinese-themed displays attract a lot of attention. Like other displays, they can be simple or be highly detailed. They can be created as a small permanent display that remains throughout the year. There are not that many Oriental buildings, thus the display would not have to take up a lot of room. Charming, yet space is conserved. 

If you want to enlarge it, LeMax has a couple of buildings that incorporate Oriental elements of architectural design, and figures from the “Streets of Old Hong Kong” have numerous high quality Oriental accent figures and junks (the sailing vessels found along rivers and bays). Using all these elements together, the display can be extremely interesting and inviting!

February 14, Valentine’s Day 

Most of the country is still experiencing winter — snow on the ground, pockets of snow on the ground, or a new snow storm approaching! Since most Department 56 buildings have snow patches on them, they definitely will not be out of place in a Valentine’s display. Thus, there are a lot of buildings from which to choose. Here are some ideas to brighten your home for Valentine’s Day. 

Starting in 2002, Department 56 began a series of Snow Village Valentine’s Day buildings. If you were collecting during those four years, chances are good that you found these buildings to be charming and just had to obtain them, even if you weren’t a SV collector. They are irresistible. 

The Valentines Series includes: 

• “Heart’s & Blooms Cottage” (2002) 

• “Sweetheart Candy Shop” (2003) 

• “Chapel of Love” (2004) 

• “Cupid’s Card Shop” (2005) 

Individual pieces from this series can be featured singularly, or the entire series can be displayed together in a realistic setting. As a suggestion, place the “Sweetheart Candy Shop” in a basket. Stacked Styrofoam™ can be used as a base for the vignette, while pieces of candy can form a fence, steps, or walkway. Red or white lights can add a special glow. A red, white or red/white patterned ribbon with hearts, cupids, or other similar motif can be bowed and secured to the handle to complete the display.

If you do not have these buildings, look for them on the secondary market. These pieces are unique to the village and have held their value quite well based on the 2010 copy of Village D’Tails. Once the basket is created, and because it is small, the base can be stored within a plastic bag and brought out each year. Just add the building from its box.

If you missed these gems, never fear. There are numerous Heritage Village buildings that would make a special Valentine’s Day display. Think about what gifts you would give to your significant other or want to receive on this special day. Then, use your imagination. Each theme provides direction to what can be added to the buildings to make it interesting. 

Some suggestions would include:

• Your favorite church or chapel — Many weddings are planned around this time.

• Jewelry stores — Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they say. How many engagements are announced on Cupid’s day? Inexpensive “jewels” can be included in this display, including those giant stoned rings. 

• Flower shops — Everyone appreciates red, white, and pink roses! Silk roses have a long shelf life, if not abused. 

* Chocolate or candy boutiques — Those red heart boxes make a wonderful base. And, red and white peppermint candies make excellent pathways!

• Bakeries — Almost everyone enjoys a cake with white frosting and red sugary roses. Incorporate cookies, cupcakes, etc. into the display.

• Card Shops — Accent it with Valentine’s cards and “Love” stamps!

• A Post Office — Each of the larger villages has at least one! Surround it with cute little Valentines! 

In each instance, there are many fun (and obvious) accents that can be gathered to make an interesting and unique display. Let the creative juices flow!

Place the building(s) on a heart shaped candy box or stack several boxes. Other decorative boxes can represent the theme, as well. Pastel basket works, too. Add flowers — real or silk, candies like peppermint circles, Valentine cards, red ribbons, and so forth. Remember, a craft store often has unique items that will enhance the display. Also look in the scrapbook department for fun accents, and buttons sometimes can add a unique touch.

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17

About a month later, everyone seems to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. No Irish ancestry required! 

Dickens’ Village has many pubs, taverns, breweries, and related buildings. Even the numerous Inns are candidates for inclusion. The buildings like the “Horse & Hounds Pub,” “Kingford’s Brew House,” “The Maltings,” “Tuttle’s Pub,” or the newly introduced pubs can be randomly placed on shelves behind a bar or above the kitchen cabinets and left indefinitely. Surround them with distinctive glassware and unique designer bottles. Whether they are full or empty is your perogative!

As a Christmas in the City collector, “Molly O’Brien’s Irish Pub,” “Katie McCabe’ Restaurant,” and “Kelly’s Irish Crafts” make a great trio. “Murphy’s Irish Pub” just opened their doors this year. You’ll want to visit them as well. Enhance the buildings with shamrocks, and other related accents, or build a more realistic setting by combining these buildings with their accessory pieces along a city street. Any of the pubs can be added to expand the scene, if desired. Either way, a St. Patrick’s Day theme provides the opportunity to showcase more pieces. And, there really is no need to take them down unless the area is earmarked for change!

Easter, March 31 

Easter comes early this year. Any of the churches can be the cornerstone of any Easter vignette, including the “Happy Easter Church” (2003-2005). On the lighter side, Snow Village also offers the “Happy Easter House” (2001), “Lily’s Nursery” (2002) and the “Chocolate Bunny Factory” (2004-2006) as part of their Easter series. The pastel colors makes these displays unique, but intriguing and fun to build. They can be enhanced by any number of Easter related items found during your accessory hunt. Place them in baskets, decorative boxes, or directly on a shelf or table as was done with the other holidays. 

For new collectors who do not have any of the older, retired pieces, look to the secondary market to include a second-hand Springtime favorite. 

Once the large village is down, there are many possibilities for continued enjoyment on a smaller scale. Some buildings were designed exclusively for post Christmas displaying, but even if you did not obtain them while they were current, there is no reason why the smaller holidays should not also be adorned with little buildings. 

This is a hobby that can be cherished throughout the year. In this “Celebrate Throughout the Year” series, we’ll examine different ways to enjoy your village pieces on an on-going basis. 

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