While in high school my Grandma began a gift tradition, which has turned into an amazing collection. She gave each of us – my sisters and mom, my cousins, aunts, and me – pieces from Department 56 villages. I was given two buildings and few figurines from the Christmas in the City collection. Each following Christmas until she passed, she continued to give us one or two buildings and a few figurines. When I set up my village each holiday season, the warmth from the little lights radiates with her love. (To see another portion of this year’s set-up, visit here.)
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Some seasons all the pieces come out and I place them throughout our house in little clusters so I don’t overwhelm anyone, including myself. Other years, like this one, it’s just a few on the top of the credenza and sometimes a favorite is placed in the kitchen. This gift tradition built a strong sense in me of what the holidays are about: being with loved ones even if it’s only in spirit. When we pull out the large containers they’re stored in, create a plan for the display, and start setting it up, especially now that Grandma is no longer with us, I’m reminded of her strong belief in family and what it meant to her.
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I think there’s something magical about a gift tradition. My Grandma sent the pieces to us right after Thanksgiving and made it clear we were to open them right away so we could enjoy the new pieces throughout the season. After leaving home and making my way into the world, I continued the ritual of setting up my village and it always made me feel closer to loved ones. This was especially true when I couldn’t fly to be with my family due to work.
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What I also love about this gift is when guests look at it, the tradition leaves a quite the impression. The most common comment is along the lines of “Wait. Your Grandma gave this to you over how many years? That’s so incredible.” They also recall childhood holiday memories while looking at it, which for me is an incredible gift in itself: being entrusted with these special stories. What I also love is my boys are completely mesmerized by it and ask me to turn its lights on every morning during breakfast.
If you’re thinking about starting a gift collection for a loved one or yourself – or wish to give a gift that will create a tradition – I’d highly recommend it. Whether it’s a village or a special ornament, like glass orbs in a favorite color given each year – or a favorite animal, unique snowflakes, travel-related ornament, or a mini-frame with a special moment in it from the past year. It could range from nutcrackers to snow globes to a holiday dish collection. Just start small and curate with care; just one or two new pieces each year will do. Remain consistent. And, of course, give with a lot of love.
Do you have a gift tradition? A special collection curated over time? If you have one, how do you display it? Please share below!
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