Today I’m taking you on a tour of the North Pole where Santa and his elves are very busy preparing for Christmas Eve. A place of holiday magic, imagination and joy for the young and young of heart. 

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OK, it’s not the real North Pole, but Department 56’s Heritage Village Collection of porcelain lighted buildings, figures and accessories.

Department 56 began to depict the legend of Santa Claus in 1990, when it introduced it’s North Pole Series. The original lighted buildings consisted of Santa’s Workshop, the Reindeer Barn, and an Elf Bunkhouse. A year later, Department 56 introduced seven more buildings. Today, there are over 165 lighted buildings and a ton of accessories.

My North Pole collection began somewhere around 1992. We were in Florida for the holidays; where my parents, grandparents and youngest sister lived. Sister A had recently built a new home. She had created a white Christmas — thanks to a live 20 foot, flocked tree and wreaths. Animated Disney characters surrounded the fireplace area, where they appeared as a holiday version of It’s a Small World.

On Christmas Eve, as is my parents’ annual tradition, we all receive a gift. That year, each family was surprised with a Department 56 North Pole Post Office and matching set of elves. And that’s how it all began…

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Collection Grows to a Village

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Tassy’s Mittens, Hassel’s Mufflers and Woolies to the left, next to North Pole Dolls and Santa’s Bear Works.

To our children’s delight, my parents continued to add to each of our collections for a number of years.

My sisters and I also began to add buildings and accessories on our own.

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North Pole Post Office and elves were start of village collection of buildings and accessories.

Today, my North Pole village consists of over 20 lighted buildings, Santa and Mrs.Claus, elves, ceramic and sisal trees too numerous to count, an animated ice skating rink, and reindeer and sleigh circling overhead.

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Soon, our collections became difficult to display, with so many lighted buildings and accessories to organize and plugin.

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Look closely for the letters P-O-L. The original buildings spelled out NORTH POLE. I have all but the N.

Platform is Foundation of North Pole

One year, when my parents were in Pittsburgh for Christmas, dad built us an amazing platform. It consists mostly of sheets of sculpted Styrofoam. Dad assembled and coated all the material with Elmer’s White Glue.

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Each daughter’s foundation was designed and created specifically for where the North Pole Village was displayed, and which buildings we had.

Light bulb sockets are built right into the platform, so that my entire village requires only two plugs (plus one each for the animated sleigh and rink that I added after).

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And, dad built layers so the buildings are elevated and easy to see, as if built on a small mountain. Just like Whiteface Mountain and Santa Land that we visited when I was three years old.

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See more about the real North Pole in Elmer the Elf Christmas Wreath DIY.

North Pole Built in a Day

A downside of having such an extensive collection, is that it takes me the better part of a day to set-up. And, honestly, I dread the other day it will take to put it all away in January.

But, it’s worth it all to see the faces on family and friends when they see it all lit and animated.

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Santa’s Route 1, North Pole home and workshop.

Storage is the biggest issue. Just like being a plate addict — where to put it all?

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Animated ice ring on end of display. Originally the platform was made to fit an air hockey table. Now that the nest is empty, I use a smaller game table.

Setup in the lodge-theme game room, it’s the perfect setting for sharing with family and friends.

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See more at Welcome to the Apres-Ski Lodge Buffet.

Storage is a Puzzle

Hubby built a large, double closet into the basement game room. The entire top shelf is carefully stuffed with all the North Pole Village boxes. Not to mention a small section of Department 56 Halloween buildings and accessories! Yes Virginia, there is a storage problem!

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This picture only depicts about a sixth of my Department 56 North Pole and Halloween collections.

Whether I’m setting up the North Pole or putting it away, I carefully layout the boxes so they go back onto the shelf exactly as they were packed. It’s like a giant puzzle! Otherwise, I’d spend more hours making everything fit back in the closet.

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North Pole Hall of Records with caroling elves and others busy delivering presents.

It also takes time to remove (or replace) each house and accessory from their fitted Styrofoam packaging. The floor always looks a little snow-covered from the flaking, and needs a good vacuuming when I’m done.

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Elsie’s Gingerbread Shop has special drops that release scented smoke from the chimney.

Thankfully, dad carefully marked where each house plugs into the platform.

But, it still takes me a good hour plus just to figure out where to place all the trees, snow and little blocks of ice. I’m so fussy, but it’s the part of the process I enjoy the most.

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Santa’s Woodworks with elves busy at work.

A Treat for the Eyes

I love all the special details in the buildings, figures, trees and other accessories.

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Like the anthers in the eight tiny reindeer; here with a loaded sleigh in front of the Reindeer Barn. Santa’s Beard Barbershop is just to the right.

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After a little trim, Santa can head next door to the Candy Cane & Peppermints shop.

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Or, if he wants something frosty, Santa can head over to the Snow Cone shop.

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All Aboard the North Pole Express

We’re nearing the end of our tour of the North Pole Village. Time to head for the train station.

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A pair of elves — returning from a vacation in Florida — pose for a picture, while others test the sleds on the nearby slope.

Meanwhile, a train full of toys and gifts travels along the peppermint track. The Forge and Assembly Shop and Toy Soldier Maker sit on the hill above.

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We’ve reached the end of the line and this holiday post.

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I hope you enjoyed this visit and tour of the North Pole.

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Do you have any Department 56 village buildings decorating your home?

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