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Brenda's Christmas Villiage Is A Labor Of Love

Christmas around the Riddle household is always a special occasion, especially the living room that undergoes a yearly metamorphosis into the setting for a miniature Christmas village.

Brenda Riddle, the architect of this holiday spectacle, begins construction of her village in late October or early November.

This year I had it completed by Halloween,” she said. “That way my family and friends have more time to enjoy it.”

Riddle said her collection of village pieces began with a gift. “I got one from my grandmother one year for Christmas; it was just a little single piece,” she said. “I put it up on the TV set in the den, and I had a few little Christmas tree ornaments that were too heavy to go on the tree, and they were little houses, so they were the start of my village.”

That was the spark that ignited a passion for collecting village pieces in Riddle that has increased with each succeeding year. “I would go to the after-Christmas sales, and I found houses on sale, and I started buying them,” she explained.

“And over the years my children and my husband have given me village pieces for Christmas,” Riddle said. “I have pieces from Lowes, Walmart, Gregory’s and even some from HSN and QVC. I have pieces that run anywhere from $10 up to $80 or $90, but most of the ones I’ve gotten the last few years have been Lemax pieces.”

Riddle’s Christmas village has grown over the years to 70 buildings. “That doesn’t include all the figurines, and there are probably about 500 figurines in there,” she said. “I have ice skaters, a popcorn machine, skiers, people shopping, kids playing hop-scotch, little snowmen, birds for the trees, deer, foxes, a bear, horses, pigs, cows, chickens, roosters and just a little bit of everything.”

Although she never has named the village, Riddle said it’s something very dear and near to her heart. “It’s just my world,” she explained. “It’s my own individual little world.”

The Christmas village is more than merely a village; it’s a community that runs from the seashore to the mountains. “It starts off at the beach, and I have a lighthouse there with docks and a couple of boats,” Riddle said. “My husband painted the ocean, and I used sand paper to make the sand. I have fences around there and little seagulls, people feeding the seagulls, a lot of nautical things in that area.

“From there it goes into the town, where I have bake shops, a toy store, a fire station, police station, a bank, and as a matter of fact, I just acquired a newspaper office. There’s a whole bunch more that I can’t remember without standing there and looking at them,” she added.

“And then from the town, it goes into an area with four churches and a sign that says, ‘Sunday Worship 9 o’clock, All Welcome.’ And from there I have a park with folks sitting on benches feeding the squirrels and the birds, and there’s a dog show, an ice skating rink and a snowman-judging contest.

“From there it goes into the residential area with the houses and the school,” Riddle explained. “Then it goes into the valley where I have a winery with little grapevines and a little shop that sells the wine, and I have a hunting and fishing shop for the hikers and campers where they can rent stuff. And from there it goes into the valley where there are streams and ponds where folks are fishing and walking. There’s even a little man with a campfire that lights up and a man standing there warming his bottom.

“Then it goes into the mountains where I have a ski lodge, a motel, a bakery and a lot of other things related to the mountains,” she said. “I have skiers and a snowboarding area where the snowboarders go up and down the hill.”

Riddle said it’s hard to say what’s in there without taking time to examine it closely. “I could sit and look at it for hours,” she said. “And every time I look at it I see something different.”

Riddle said she rearranged her layout numerous times before she got it exactly the way she wanted it. “Somehow it came out right this year,” she said with a laugh.

She said she doesn’t have any favorite village pieces, but she especially likes the vineyard and grapevines and the lighthouse that has a light that revolves. “I do have some pieces that have special meanings to me,” Riddle explained.

“One year when my son was in college he gave me a radio station piece. He was working at a radio station as part of an internship, and he had to work Christmas Eve,” she said. “So whenever I look at that piece, I can see him on the air at the radio station.”

Another village piece with a special meaning for Riddle is a newspaper office. “I got that one this year, and it’s called the ‘Daily Gazette,’” she said, laughing. “I guess you know why that one has so much meaning.”

Riddle said she has purchased a number of her village pieces when they go on sale at a reduced price. “After Christmas is the best time to catch up with all the sales,” she said. “If there are any left they’re usually at a good price. I always look for those I don’t have, but of course they come out with new ones every year, so it’s kind of hard to keep up with them.”

The village that started out on the top of the family TV has grown considerably. “It spread from the top of the TV to the stereo cabinet beside it,” she explained. “From there it went to part of it on the top of the TV and stereo and another part on the top of another table in the den.

“Then it grew to the top of a drop-leaf dining room table,” she continued. “And from there it has grown to two drop-leaf dining room tables, an eight-foot table and several card tables. I have my village on a total of seven tables.”

Wiring the village for electricity is usually a big job, and it changes every time a new building is added, she said. “I have power strips hooked into more power strips, and they’re hooked into one long power strip,” Riddle said. “And they’re all hooked so I can click a special remote switch one time, and they all come on, and another click, and they all go off.”

Riddle said some of the small accessories are battery powered and must be turned on manually. “I haven’t figured out how to get them electrified so I can plug them up, but that’s OK,” she said.

She said she is not through adding to her village. “I’d like to get it to the point where the village fills up one whole room,” she said, laughing.