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Mini but very merry: Holiday villages a flexible tradition

AP – Whether in cardboard, wood or porcelain, little villages – with houses, shops, miniature figures and snowy fir trees – have long been part of many families’ holiday decorating tradition.

They’re also popular now as part of an ongoing love of the cozy and the do-it-yourself.

“Nostalgia is at the forefront of holiday decor this year,” said a trend expert at the crafts site Dayna Isom Johnson. “So it’s no surprise that tiny holiday villages are trending.

“From classic scenery with snowy layers to modern ceramics with clean lines, families are putting their creative spin on this decades-old tradition,” she said.

Little 19th Century-style villages came to America with European immigrants and were further popularised by the father of five-and-dime stores, FW Woolworth, who sold tiny German-made cardboard houses.

In the 1970s and ‘80s came ceramic houses; the company Department 56 began making their popular ones in 1976 and still do today. These sturdier buildings were easy to store seasonally.

Robin Zachary, who works as a prop stylist on commercial photo shoots, has amassed a collection of vintage cardboard houses, matchbox cars, bottlebrush trees and little people that she likes to set up for the holidays in her New York City home.

ABOVE & BELOW: Photos show Crate & Barrel’s collection of white ceramic buildings. PHOTOS: CRATE & BARREL

She advises checking out model train shops for accessories: “The scale is perfect for a holiday village vignette.”

She also suggested using fake snow to dress your display, “with a dash of silver or gold glitter mixed in, and snips of fresh evergreens placed in tiny containers”.

And if you’ve got limited space for a holiday display?

“I’d create a village as a centrepiece on a dining table or console,” Zachary said.

“A large platter can serve as the base, lined with fake snow and fresh evergreen branches that encircle your village. That’s easily moved if you need to use the space temporarily.”

Home Depot’s Director of Trend and Design Sarah Fishburne said fireplace mantels and side tables also make great display spots for mini holiday villages.

If you’re making a holiday village yourself, Fishburne said, get everybody in the family involved, whether decorating a miniature tree, assembling a little structure or adding other personal elements.

You’ll find sets of unfinished wood and cardboard miniature houses online; you add the paint, washi tape or other decorative trim.

Some will fit nicely over a battery-operated tealight to glow in the evenings.

DIY blogger in Los Angeles Kelly Mandell transformed birdhouses into a modern holiday village using pastel-hued craft paint and loads of glitter. Drifts of fluffy snow and colourful bottlebrush trees added to the playful vibe.

Another creative option: a village of snow globe houses. Buy readymade ones, or make your own using clean jars, distilled water, a droplet of glycerin to suspend your tinsel glitter, and then whatever elements you’d like to attach to the jar lid.

You might even weave village elements into the branches of a wreath, Fishburne suggests.