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Creating a Christmas Village is a multi-step perspective. We want the venue to have enough density so that it feels like a garden or a special space. First we will select an area to create the Christmas Village. The first year you may have a very small venue, but don’t be worried about this. There are a variety of themes and ideas. Some of the ways that we have done this in the past will be explained in this article as I think back on different jobs that we have done.
I recall several projects where we rented potted trees, built small wooden shacks or structures where people could sit, meet, greet and photograph and things of that nature. We often use pine straw or mulch to create pathways that will lead you thru the little village or siting area. This provides an entertainment venue which can be small or as large as space permits. We often use these areas like a little stage- in a 12’x 12’ area, and put out 4 Palm trees, draping lights over the top of them.
The local schools will often have the children meet at the Christmas Village and do little skits or sing Christmas carols. This obviously draws the parents, relatives and friends to the area. Having little side venues with different photograph opts in also a key factor. One of the most popular side displays is the fiberglass sleigh. We backdrop the sleigh with décor items to create the holiday spirit. Some of the backdrop includes: artificial Christmas trees, Poinsettias, plants and hand built structures. The kids jump in the sleigh to play and for photos. A lot of these things you will build on each year and add to them.
The first year might just be a simple little lighted and decorated hut. However, that little hut is created in a way that it can easily be disassembled and then stored for use in the following year. The second year, we would add a little pathway with hay, straw, paving stones, etc. Each year you will recognize things that need to be done or ways to add to the display.
One of the tricks that I’ve found is that the local nurseries will often rent plants or small trees which can be nicely lit and decorated to stage the venue. They are often willing to rent the items for the month if you agree to water them and keep them in good shape. Sometimes you can even make a deal with them that if you water them and keep them in good shape you can receive half of the rental money back when you return them. Not only are they making some money during the off-season time, their pots often have their company name or logo printed on them. They are marketing their nursery and also feel they play a role in the local community festivities.
Another idea is to have a Christmas Tree Decorating Community Contest. This is where different groups will decorate little trees which will be scattered out in the Christmas Village and then be voted on. In the Village, we will have some sort of photo opt, some form of entertainment, and we will try to create a holiday atmosphere. The RGB flood lights help to set the scene as they can fade thru and change into different colors. Making the Christmas Village a defined and cozy area is the design goal. We try to surround the area with some type of border, such as split-rail fencing or even bales of pine stray, hay or wheat. Something that will define the space and give a place to sit and relax while watching the children sing.
Now I will say, the number one attraction is free food. You want people to show up at your Christmas Village? Offer them free food and you will pack them in. You need to decide how many people you want to be there because it can easily get out of hand. I recall what happened a few years ago in Charleston, SC – at the prestigious community of Daniel Island. They offered free bar-b-que and advertised it very well. The lines were huge, going down and around several blocks. I’ll say it again; decide how many people you want to show up and advertise accordingly.
The idea is that the Village will get some type of add-on and grow each year. You may get a new station, another section, or a new display. It will depend on the audience or population which you are trying to entertain. It could be a block, a square, a station, a room, etc. Adding Fiberglass glow bowls, big Tin Soldiers, Large Nutcrackers, and other select items will add atmosphere and more opportunities for additional photo opts.
A simple photo opt would be having someone cut the face out of a piece of plywood and then painting a Holiday scene on it, being sure to include the Destination City, Artist, and year. For example, you might have someone paint or stencil, “Welcome to Myrtle Beach Christmas Village, 2016, by local artist X.” The families are putting their faces in the plywood hole and having someone take a picture with their phones. They feel great that they didn’t have to buy a photo and they like to share their adventures on social media. This helps get your Christmas Village name out there thru people posting images and creating chatter on social media thru Instagram, Facebook, Google and Twitter. People will learn about your holiday attraction thru their friends and family posting the fun family holiday adventures that your city promotes. The best referrals are thru word of mouth or in this case social media’s mouth. Most of our clients that are looking to put together a Christmas Village are people wanting to promote tourism, shopping, recognition, excitement and foot traffic in their city.
I always tell prospective commercial clients: “The first-year people are going to be curious and come out to see it. The second year there will be some intrigue of what happened in the previous year and how it may have changed. By the third year it is starting to become a tradition.” Once you have a tradition it starts to create a buzz and large group of attendees, and that’s what the clients are looking for.
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