The Christmas decorations are up. The process always brings back memories from lots of past Christmases. The picture below is of houses and toys from the Christmas Garden or train platform I grew up with beginning in earliest memory. They were on the platform for my brother before me so, presuming he got them by age five, they’re around 87 years old now. The items are a little chipped here and there, one of the cars has lost a wheel, and one of the houses is leaning a little. I’m kind of in the same shape.
I have more of the items including the Lionel freight train set from the 20′s but they’re stored away in the basement.
Here is a city comprised of models based on buildings found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, particularly with the emphasis on half-timbered construction. I’ve built these models over the past thirteen years from kits made by Faller, a German company. The prototype for the six buildings together on the right is in Frankfurt and I’ve visited there. Known as the Römer, the square was heavily damaged by Allied bombing but since rebuilt. The model city being arranged on my coffee table, I think of it as Stadt Kaffeetisch.
Here is a closeup of the building fronts showing the great detail in these kits.
Below is a more contemporary, classic small town winter/Christmas scene. Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell are in there somewhere. It includes two of the ceramic houses from the Snow Village line of Department 56. These are a pretty good scale size next to O-gauge trains so I began to buy these in ’87.
I soon had some 44 buildings plus accessories on my old 200+ square feet, O-gauge, three rail, three mainlines layout seen here. My daughter, Sigrid, used to say that she’d like to live in the village. It seems like a world where there is peace, no stress, no poverty, no disease, and everyone’s nice all the time. As a part of my move, however, the residents were evicted by right of eminent domain: the layout was disassembled and the houses packed away but I pulled out eight of them for the living room this year.
In the years before I plunged back into photography I did a lot of stained glass work. Here’s an original design that has just been hung again for the holidays. The creche set next below was from a 70′s pattern book and I still see them from time to time. I made a number of them over the years but lavished special care on the last three sets, one each for my daughters and one for me. I visited Sigrid this week and was pleased to see her set out amongst the greens. (For more of my stained glass work you can click on that title at the top of the screen.)
Finally, I still struggle with a real tree. (N.B. It’s not a holiday tree; it’s a Christmas tree.) It’s a chore getting it home and into the house and into its holder and stringing the old fashioned lights with the foil reflectors I found on ebay. Then my friend, Barbara, helped me hang the ornaments. A few carry tags as from my grandparents’ or my parents’ trees; others were accumulated by us over the years, typically from the Wanamaker Christmas Shop after seeing Santa. Of course there’s the late Vince Guaraldi’s “Charley Brown Christmas” or Julie Andrews’ “Christmas Treasure” albums playing while we do the trimming. The tree is then dressed with glass icicles and tinsel from my dwindling supply that I hide from the EPA. (I think I still have a lifetime supply.)
What a joy it is to see it done, glowing softly and filling the house with its fragrance.
I understand the ecumenism and inclusivity that has led to “Happy Holidays” and I certainly wish them to all.
But, I also have to say (borrowing from Clement Moore) … Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.