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Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Freebie/ Dept. 56

The Christmas of 1977 I was nine years old. A dear family friend, Inge, gave me a very special gift. It was a sweet yellow ceramic house that lit up and seemed magical to me. Every Christmas ever after, the house was displayed in a very special place.

Once I was settled in my own home as an adult the house came with me.
A few years later I was at the Warner Robins AFB (in Georgia) thrift store and noticed a small church that seemed to look very similar to my yellow house. It was only $1.25, so I bought it and only had to find a new extension cord with a light attached.

All the following images are from Ebay.

A year later I was working as a writer for the Houston Home Journal. Searching for a new Christmas story, I accepted the invitation to visit the home of one of Mr. Decor's co workers. Each year she would set up an extensive Christmas village in several rooms of her home. She thought our son, age 2 at the time, would enjoy it.

Although my son was enraptured, I too squealed with delight. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful display. The attention to detail was spectacular. I then pointed out an area to Connie that contained the same church I had bought the year earlier. I mentioned this and she said, "Oh, those are from the 1976 original Snow Village collection done by Dept. 56. They are very collectible." She also said that she had a collectors book. I thumbed through the book and found MY house. I said, "Oh, I also have this house." Connie's eye lit up like a Christmas tree. She asked if I would be interested in selling the house. I politely told her "No." The house held to many wonderful memories for me within its midst."

Once home, I began to research the original snow village. I learned that it consisted of six hand painted pieces. I then made a foray onto Ebay where my house was undergoing a bidding war....the winning buyer paid $300.00. I also found my church selling for $49. I was surprised, but it did not change in any way how I felt about my magical, wonderful house.

Each year I try to track down one vintage piece to add to my 1976-1979 Snow Village collection. I am now just missing a few pieces. I always give myself a $20 limit, so it has become quite a bit of a treasure hunt.

Last year, I bought the 1980 train set for my son who adores trains. Coincidentally, a friend found the train set in an antique store and also bought it for me. (Such a wonderful friend! )So, I now have two train sets. I don't really need two trains sets.....

This brings us to Friday Freebie. If you would like the Dept. 56 Vintage Train Set please leave me ONE comment as to what Christmas treasure speaks to your heart.
Come back on Monday to learn "Why I Give".

UPDATE: Congratulations to one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth from Thoughts From An Evil Overlord. May your train bring you many years of happy, healthy holidays!
Be blessed!


jewelstreet said...

That is such a great story. I know I won last week's Freebie Friday. I just wanted to comment anyway.

I have a village I set up every year too. Mine aren't collectible, but I buy undecorated ones and decorate them myself. They're all glittery and snowy. Once the house is remodeled, I can't wait to get them a spot of their own!

cottage farm villa (aka cottagecharm) said...

What a sweet story. I have a dear friend who has been collecting Snow Village for years and years. I loved to see how she would set it up each year....always in a different place. I collect Dept 56, Dickens Village...not sure I am setting up this year...but if I do, I will post on my blog. Please stop by. No need to enter me in the freebie, since I don't collect snow village....I would rather give someone else the chance to win such a prize! ~Cheryl

heather said...

That is a neat little story! It must be fun for you to find those pieces on your treasure hunts!

Jerald said...

Hi. A friend called me and told me about your giveaway. It's amazing...I lost a bid on ebay just last month for the train set. I have at least 62 snow village houses on display. I collect them supposively for my wife...but really for me. Their soothing, quiet, happy and peaceful atmosphere reminds me of my grandmother's love for me. (She was the only family member that ever showed any love to me.) She's gone now and I miss her terribly but I'm reminded of her every Christmas season when I set up my Snow Village. Her memory is my treasure.

Shimmy Mom said...

What a treasure. I'd almost feel guilty winning.

That is a wonderful story. My favorite Christmas decoration is worth anything monetarily. It's a Ceramic Nativity set. My grandmother made it. She had rheumatoid arthritis and her hands were so gnarled that my aunt used to have to put her fork in her hand for her so she could eat. But her favorite thing to do was to go to the old folks center and make ceramics. My set she actually made for my other grandma and when she passed away she had it given to me. I wouldn't trade any thing in the world for it.

Helen (AKA: Bride of Martinstein) said...

That train set would be a charming addition to our Christmas decorating!

Here is one of my dearest Christmas items that brings back wonderful memories:

My husband cut a 3/4 section off the trunk of the first tree we bought as a married couple; the first tree we had in our first home together. It sat in the Christmas stuff untouched...

Two years later, he sanded it down and wrote a message on it, turning it into the first Christmas present that our first child was to give me.

Liz said...

What a great story! I don't really want to be entered to win the drawing. It would be better for a fellow collector to win it. I collect candlewick glass. I love it. One of my grandmothers gave me an incredible punch bowl set. And that started the whole thing.It looks so pretty on a holiday buffet or shower table. Anything like that is worth so much more than the "retail" value. It connects us to people that we want to have good memories of.

Lora said...

What a sweet story Laura. I have three Department 56 pieces that were given to me as gifts and my oldest teen likes to set up our little village on the piano! I'd love to be included in your giveaway. The part of Christmas I treasure is reading the Christmas story and singing with my family on Christmas morning.

Your $20 vintage shopping adventure sounds like fun. I'd love to have you visit my giveaway too.

So nice to meet you and Merry Christmas!

KDLOST said...

Love that! It really does feel magical and is beautiful. Wonderful story. :)

KDLOST said...

Oops! I know you said one comment.. but I forgot to write the Christmas treasure! Sorry...

I think my Christmas tea cups really are special because my grandmother has given me pieces of it over the years. She used to sell it in her gift shop. Of course that's closed now, but she is so generous giving me a piece every so often. :)

Melissa said...

These are great vintage peices! Thanks for sharing!

Joanne Kennedy said...

Oh I just got my first house last year! I had no idea they were valuable either. I just thought they were cute and vintage looking. I would love to win the train set to add to my lonely house as I want to start to build my village to hand down to my great niece when she gets older. She was with me when we found the little house and we planned out the whole story of who lived there and who would be "Moving in" to the neighborhood. She would be thrilled to see the train brought some new people to the little town.

I love my Christmas items that were handed down to me from my aunt who never had children. I recall the Christmas times spent with her when I was a child. I would help her decorate every year and put each item out so carefully so as not to break anything.

Since I never had children I'm trying to create the same type of memories with my great niece. My two nephews are grown up now so thankfully I have her now.

What a lovely giveaway and thank you so much for offering to pass on the extra set you have.


Shannon said...

I love villages. I told my husband I would like it if I got a piece each year and started building one...I just need a warm fire place to set it up by......someday!!! Ü


Lady Dorothy said...

What a wonderful story of your treasures!

One of my treasures is a hand-painted angel set. It was given to me years ago by a friend who made each angel look like one of my family members! Very precious to me for both reasons.

I like to have a theme each Christmas. I was thinking of maybe doing a "train Christmas" next year! What a wonderful addition this would be!

Lysa TerKeurst said...

Your blog is beautiful!!! What a neat thing to slowly collect and add to your Christmas village.

Thank you for visiting and letting me know about you.

Do you still live in the Houston area?

Sweet Blessings,

Shelly W said...

What a beautiful collection! You shouldn't give any of it away. I currently have four of the newer Dept. 56 pieces which we all love. They are sitting on a pine desk in my living room and they are lovely. I guess those are my most favorite Christmas treasures.

Blondie's Journal said...

You seem to be a very lucky girl! Years ago when I first left home and got married I would get really homesick looking at my parent's Christmas tree and ornaments. One year I asked my mom if I bought her 5 new ornaments, would she give me 5 of her "old" ones, that way I would have those "memories" on my own tree. When the day of the swap came, she said she could not make the trade because all of her ornaments reminded her of all the great Christmas's with us kids. So you can see how much our feelings are tied up in these baubles. Luckily I was able to find reproductions of ornaments from the 50's and 60's and they are my treasures as was she. Warm wishes, Jane

Anonymous said...

thanks for your blog and your giveaway my most favorite item is a christmas music box my dad gave to my mom his last christmas with her he went home to glory in 1998 my mom followed in 2005 so it became mine it gets a special place in our home (out of little hands reach) KDONNA33@YAHOO.COM

Kirsten said...

What a great story! Growing up my dad would set up the snow village and I would love moving the cars around. When my parents collection got too big they would set up a "mini-village" in my room. This will be my first Christmas with my husband so we're starting our traditions this year :)

Catherine Holman said...

My husband's train set from when he was a little boy is used at the base of our Christmas tree and it always brings back a flood of memories. Thanks for entering my giveaway! I'm so glad to have found your blog.
Merry Christmas,

Anonymous said...

What a sweet blog! I'd cherish that train set as I've always wanted one now that I have 2 boys and never had any brothers of my own; it being vintage seems to me like it comes with its own Christmas past full of joyful memories made by other little boys... My fav treasure is a small plastic angel ornament covered in gold glitter that I purchased for my Dad one year in a tradition I had as a child of giving hm an ornament every year. I love seeing it, rembering how much joy it gave me to select a special ornamnet for him every year as a child. Thanks! kel at

Heather said...

What a neat story!! My aunt collects Dept. 56 Christmas pieces and sets up her village each year.

As for my favorite Christmas decoration is kinda a sad looking thing now, but full of memories from my childhood. It is a glass hurricane candle shade that is decorated in felt to look like Santa. The bottom has a styrofoam disc used as a stopped and a felt hat is fitted over the top opening. Every year we fill it with peppermints and enjoy a sweet treat as we pass by. Having survived 3 children fighting over it, it's in sad shape these days, but my mom still puts it out and still puts the peppermints in it. It wouldn't feel like Christmas without it!

Kimberly said...

What special treasures! And don't you just love when there is a special story tied to your decorations?

I have a wooden reindeer that we put out by our tree each year. My father made it when I was little. He passed away when I was 18, so it is such a treasure to me!

Thanks for doing this giveaway. I know my daughters would adore this train set. :) And I am sure it would start us collecting our own village. :)


Chatty Kelly said...

YOU WON MY GIVEAWAY! (1 yr subscription to Today's Christian Woman)

Please email me at:

chattykelly (at) comcast (dot) net

with your mailing address, and I'll order your subscription!


Busy Mom said...

What a sweet story. I don't have a collection of anything really--but I have started collecting the love notes that my sweetie leaves me sometimes! I'm thinking they will be a treasure some day when we are old...we can rock together and read them over and over again!. :)
Merry Christmas

Jen said...

What a wonderful story. I have a village that I set up. My Mom has given me a new house every year since my daughter was born. She is now 14. We had to seperate the village into another "town". The children love to pretend they live in that town. I love to hear them talking as they are "living" in the town.

Donna@designson47thstreet said...

I really enjoyed reading your story. Things that were given to us when we were much younger have such an impact and meaning, don't they? I have a few pieces that come to mind that were given to me in my late teens and I wouldn't part with them for the world. I have several Dept. 56 village pieces. Love 'em. Great post!

Mimi Sue said...

When I hear stories like that I wonder what else goes through the thrift stores undetected. I have several tree ornaments that I made as a teenager in a church group activity that are sentimental to me. I take them out of the box and wonder about the friends that I've lost track of and hope they are healthy and happy. Mimi

Elizabeth said...

Oh, I would love to win the train set. Trains are a HUGE part of my family's Christmas decor. But, if I had to pick 1 item of everything I have, I'd choose my table top tree that I posted about on Thursday. My dad bought it for his aunt right before he went into the army in 1951. She was like a mother to him and with him being away, there would be no one to help her with a full size tree, so he bought this one for her. Not only is it a vintage treasure, it's a family treasure.

Suburban Cowgirl said...

I like your elf movie. I came to learn about Sinkerklass, but I really like your train. My mom told me about you. ( my mom is Shimmy MOm)

Prim2Pink said...

Please enter me in your giveaway!
Although I don't have any of the villages in my Xmas decor. My daughter does! I would love to be able to tuck that train set in her Christmas stocking.
My favorite item for Christmas decorating is a tree skirt that my sister-in-law made for me. She has since passed. I think of her every year when I take it out of the box. She had told me that she was disappointed in how it turned out & wasn't going to give it to me at first. Boy am I glad she did!

Rachel Ann said...

Thank you for an amazing giveaway...blessings and happy holidays

My Christmas treasure can only be seen at Grandma's is a ceramic angel I made while in Kindergarten and gave to her. I love seeing it on her tree every year!

Glenda said...

What a great treasure you have from your childhood.

I don't have the room in my house to display these little treasures. Thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...

What a great story! I collect snow village too, I have about twelve houses, I am dreaming of giving my collection to my oldest grandaughter when she is old enought to appreciate them, she is only three years old now. I will love to win your train set.
My treasure item is a porcelain Baby Jesus my father gave me when I was 14yrs old at the time we lived in Spain, we were immigrants and he saved money for a whole year in order to be able to buy it for me. I set him up every year with my nativity set. It is very special to me.
I don't have a blog yet, I am new at this wonderful world of bloggin.
Have a Merry Christmas

My name is Diana. said...

Oh my how I would love the train set. I'm a collector of vintage christmas villages too! My favorite Christmas item would have to be the large cramic tree that plugs in and has little bulbs on each limb. It is an exact replica of the one my father gave my mother as a wedding gift their first Christmas together. (They were married on December 26th, 41 years ago!!!) I love it. It's always the first item out on display in December and the last one put away in January!

Krista said...

Wow, I can't even imagine how my son would light up to see these on display. Our Christmas treasure is trains. Growing up my dad was always into trains, and every year at Christmas he would pull out the special tree base he had made, and we would reverently assemble the village and train under the tree.

My kids have loved visiting Papa's house to play with his trains at Christmas time. They don't know it yet, but this year on Christmas morning, my children are going to come out to find a brand-new train running under our own tree.

To make it better, my 3 year old lit up when I pulled out my little (non-collectible, but handle-able) Christmas village a few weeks ago. I don't know why, but he has given those little buildings his utmost attention ever since. I can't wait to put them under the tree on Christmas Eve, so they can become part of the train tradition.

Thanks for offering such a treasure as a giveaway! I imagine pulling it out every year, and someday passing it to my son when he leaves home to start his own traditions.

Marilyn said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving a comment.

What a sweet story...I too have a cottage collection. My sons buy me a new cottage every year, they usually only cost about $5.00 but I proudly display them every year.

Edie said...

What a treasure you are to offer such a generous gift. I don't collect so I will leave this to someone else to win but I will be following your blog. :)

Thanks for entering my contest. Rich Christmas Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

Wow what a giveaway! My husband has his own train set-up and just this evening digging around under the table he found my mom's old village set (not ceramic unfortunately). It's really neat that you have such a special friend.

TRay said...

Hey! Just leaving a comment: I have a small angel on the tree that my mom put on our tree my very first Christmas. She has yellow cotton-like hair--I loved her & played with her every single year. She is now called the "Don King Angel" as her hair is standing straight on end after years of play. Love her!

Elizabeth said...

I am so excited to be the recipient of the Dept. 56 train! If you read my All Aboard post, you know how prominent trains are in my family's decorating. I plan to put it on the mantle, or as a center piece on the coffee table. I'll see what works best.