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.
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
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.
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.
Soon, our collections became difficult to display, with so many lighted buildings and accessories to organize and plugin.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Storage is the biggest issue. Just like being a plate addict — where to put it all?
Setup in the lodge-theme game room, it’s the perfect setting for sharing with family and friends.
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!
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.
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.
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.
A Treat for the Eyes
I love all the special details in the buildings, figures, trees and other accessories.
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.
After a little trim, Santa can head next door to the Candy Cane & Peppermints shop.
Or, if he wants something frosty, Santa can head over to the Snow Cone shop.
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.
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.
We’ve reached the end of the line and this holiday post.
I hope you enjoyed this visit and tour of the North Pole.
Do you have any Department 56 village buildings decorating your home?
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Great post, lovely display! You’ll enjoy my sister’s creation of Schnauzer-ville on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDHDmJ8MGgQ
She made most of the dog figures and many of the people using poly’ clay. It, like yours, is a labor of Christmas joy. julie w
Oh. My. Goodness Julie! Your sister’s creation blows mine totally away. And to think she created all those figures!!! She’s immensely talented. Thank you for sharing the link. Her schnauzers reminded me fondly of my Scottie dog too.
Your snow village is so pretty. I had one by Lefton and my favorite pieces were the accessories. I displayed the scenes in several areas of the house. . . church scene, skating rink, houses in a subdivision, town scene, etc. A few years back I decided not to put it out and it was all destroyed in a fire. I stored it in my husband’s barn and it burned down on New Year’s night. . . a total loss. Never get over something that devastating. Thankfully, the insurance company reimbursed me for the snow village (the pieces I could remember). Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Oh Bobbie, how heartbreaking! We all say it’s people not things… but, I feel your sense of loss. I hope you have at least a few pictures of the scenes you had created in the past? Thank you for your good wishes — I hope you have the happiest of holidays.
I love your North Pole village Debbee…and I also feel your pain as far as storage and set up and take down and….yep! been there done that many, many times.
I don’t have the North Pole, but I do have Dept 56 victorian houses (about 14 of them) as well as the Dicken’s Village houses (four of them, along with characters roasting chestnuts on the street corner)…AND Bob Cratchett, Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge!
Add to that the Chevy Chase Christmas vacation and The Christmas Story houses and figurines/characters.
I absolutely love when it is all set up and the snow is perfectly scattered among the bottle brush trees…I sit and marvel at it’s beauty until January when I moan as I put everything away.
Someone once said have someone else put it away, but the fact is I have to do it myself…I know, it is a control thing. LOL
Thanks for sharing!
Kari, we have so much in common! If I didn’t have the NP village I would have chosen the Dicken’s and Christmas Carol figures. Love, that tale. I just saw your table with the modern day holiday story houses and figures — so fun and festive! Too bad we couldn’t get together and help each other put our displays away — over some wine? Ho, ho, ho!
Debbee, your village is fantastic, and your Dad’s platform he built an engineering dream. Your sense of organization and the labor of love involved with unboxing, displaying and reboxing does not go unnoticed by me!
I hope your week leading to Christmas goes without a hitch but with lots of joy.
Oh Rita, you give me way too much credit for organization — it’s absolutely necessary! I do love that my dad (who was an engineer!) created the platform. When I was little, we’d go to bed with only the platform (tracks only) and un-decorated live tree set up. On Christmas morning the tree was lit and all decorated, a village of houses and figures in place, with Lionel train running around the platform and through a tunnel/mountain behind the tree. It was so magical! And guess what, I still have the train they bought the year I was born! And, even a couple of the vintage skiers that were perched on the mountain. Dad made all the little houses by hand, but alas none of those remain.
That destination wedding was wonderful, but I don’t think I’ll ever recover losing the better part of a week to prepare for Christmas LOL. I’ve just decided that fewer blog posts will get published. And, whatever decorations aren’t up or cookies not baked by the time the boys come home — then so be it!
Merry Christmas my friend.
P.S. After the holiday, I can’t wait to share with you a vintage find I bought as a gift!
Debbie, Your North Pole display is beautiful. I keep mine in cabinets and try to enjoy them all year. I have seen the platform like the one your husband built with mountains and hill made with spray foam insulation. You can shape it almost in any form. My friend painted hers with craft paints. She covered a front window in her business with Dept 56 houses. Debbie, your peacock tablescape can’t be beat. It is my favorite. Lilly
Lilly, do you have the NP Village too? I’ll bet they look wonderful display in cabinets. You sound like you have a very talented friend. I can’t think of you without thinking — Lilly=peacock tablescape LOL! Wish I had time to share my holiday peacock table on the blog this year.
I am sooo loving your North Pole village! There is just something wonderful about creating a little town the way you’d like to see it in real life. When the lights go on and it looks so cozy, with the snow so sparkly, it’s just magical. We don’t have the North Pole village, but we do have the Dept. 56 Dickens, Williamsburg, A Christmas Carol, Halloween, and Autumn village collections and I love them all! Creating is fun, but taking them down is a real downer. When I showed the mister your village, he loved it, too, Michael is an engineer, so your dad’s electrical set-up was right up his alley. He also said “B-o-b-b-i, don’t even think about buying anymore villages”. Now, where would he get such an idea? Hugs!
I’d love to have the Dickens, but no where to display let alone store it. Michael’s response sounds like my hubby after we got our Scottie and I wanted a 6th theme Christmas tree. “No more trees!” So I moved the peacock ornaments to the chandelier and Scottie dogs and plaid to the tree!
My dad was a mechanical engineer, as is my husband.
I really did enjoy your tour—I know how it is to put up a village…and we have let that go this year–since we aren’t having the holidays here. So===I really enjoyed your sharing the village…smiles and Merry Christmas
Hi Sandi, so nice to hear from you! I didn’t set the village up last year, so it was nice to see it again. Good thing too, because the platform (which is stored in the attic is in need of some repair (glue and new coating) before we pack it away again. Hoping it holds up until I have grandchildren! Happy holidays to you too.
So sorry you lost your North Pole. In our 70’s now, we began to think our village collections were just too much work to put up each year. So we passed the North Pole to our youngest son and his family and the Dicksons series to our oldest son and his family – so they are still around and being enjoyed. But, worry not, we saved the New England collection for ourselves….don’t put it out every year but that was our favourite. They are just magical for the grandchildren…I recall them really believing the elves in the North Pole were real.
Oh Susanne, it was a follower who had the fire and lost their villages, not me. Really heartbreaking.
Last year was the first time I didn’t put the village up. Since it’s in the game room, I only get to enjoy it when we have company over. But, I missed it! One day I hope to display it for grandchildren, but eventually will also pass split the houses and accessories between my two sons. There’s plenty to create two magical villages.
That is beautiful! I have 6 village houses and have been trying to add on but my biggest problems are storage and finding an out of the way spot to set it all up. You have so many cute pieces!
Thanks so much Joanne! It’s a conundrum for sure! Out of the way also removes some of the motivation to setup since it doesn’t get seen and appreciated as much. If I had fewer house I’d suggest creating several vignettes instead. That’s what I do with my Halloween pieces.
Your North Pole village is fabulous! So many adorable pieces!
Thanks so much Veronica! I’m partial to my original style buildings (all retired) vs the later, current versions that have a lot more plastic and are more cartoonish. Although, I’m sure children love ’em!
oh my goodness, this is just amazing! what a tradition!
Thanks Debra, I’m looking forward to sharing it with grandchildren someday and then passing it on to my boys.
I love the North Pole Village and started collecting them about the time you did. The village grew until we moved in 2005. I still have them all stored away and display some of them in years that I’m motivated and am able. After buying 80 buildings and the accessories I forced myself to stop issuing building permits!!! Your display is so beautiful. I love looking at the amazing details in each piece. Your display makes me want to get some out this year. Wish I had your Dad’s mountains, etc. LOL
Wow Jessie, 80 buildings! Wherever did you display them all? I’d have to build an addition onto my house for a collection of that size! Loved your comment about “building permits” LOL! We lost my dad this past spring, so the display will be a loving reminder of him each year.
What a wonderful treasure! Thank you for sharing it with us at the Snickerdoodle Link Party! This will be one of my features today!
Thanks Roseann. Seeing it brings the kid out of everybody, and it reminds me of the wonderous, magical feelings of Santa.
I love your village. The scenes are lovely.
Thanks for stopping by Christine and taking the time to comment. It’s fun sharing the North Pole to a wider audience.
Your collections are impressive and that village is fabulous! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm. xo Kathleen
Happy holidays Kathleen! Glad you enjoyed the virtual trip to the North Pole, thanks for visiting.
Love your North Pole village! What a lovely tradition! I have to show it to my husband when he gets home. We set up two villages most years, one by Lenox, and one hand-painted by Mr G. Stop on by if you get a chance. They were posted in 2017.
Two villages Sandra?! Wow, finding the display and storage space has to be a challenge. I took a peek and they are both beautiful and so magical. Hand-painted make them a family treasure too.
I loved looking at your village; mine is a generic one with building titles of interest to me! Someday I will move enough clutter to get it out; I so enjoyed looking at the details of yours! I know what you mean about storage space!
I tend to set mine up about every other year. It’s such a big job, but afterwards I’m so happy I went through the effort. Hope you find yours to enjoy. I think it’s neat to have building titles of interest to you! My dad’s train platform took up half of their garage and couldn’t be saved, stored after he died in May. But we are saving all the handmade buildings he and my mother made. There’s one named for every member of our family. Daughters and grandchildren each have a trio to keep. They aren’t Christmasy, but are works of art.
Wow, you have quite the village! Your father’s carved styrofoam base is very impressive. I attempted to make one for our village this year but it doesn’t look anywhere near as impressive as yours. My village needs a flying Santa!
Hi ya Marie, lovely to hear from you! My dad was a mechanical engineer. His hobby was building model railroad displays with intricate terrains, and exquisitely detailed buildings, bridges and trees. The flying Santa is not a Dpt 56 piece, and came from Michaels (years ago). I love how it animates the scene.
Debbee, loved seeing your Village…I too do one under the large living room tree but mine is the cheaper version, Lemax…I started buying houses in the early 80’s when my sons were born….Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks for visiting Deb! Several of my pieces are also Lemax from Michaels — Santa and sleigh revolving around the NP, and the large lighted Xmas tree near town hall. One of the reason I got so many Dpt 56 houses and accessories is because a large Christmas store went out of business. They advertised in the Pittsburgh paper, first come first served at 50% off. I ordered for myself and sisters, plus put away other theme villages as gifts.
Ah thanks Jenna! My mom helped me set it up, right before Thanksgiving. Missed it last Christmas, because of my foot surgery.
Thanks for sharing, Debbee. My mom had this series and would set it up each Christmas. Seeing yours brings back some lovely memories 🙂 hugs
How lovely to hear Rachelle! Most folks have the Dickens series rather than the North Pole. Wishing you a most fa-la-la-la holiday!