Christmas Village




One of my favorite Christmas memories as a child was watching and staring at my Uncle Durwood's Christmas tree. He had a train going around it and inside the track were figurines and scenic nick knacks they had bought on vacations and other travels. I loved that tree, and I vowed to have one of my own someday.

My first Christmas out on my own I bought a train and a tree and set it up....and it looked pitiful. But I started collecting buildings and figurines and it was only a few years before I had a Christmas Village that I was proud of and that has become a tradition in my family.

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Step 1: Village Base

My Village base is made of pressed wood. I'm not sure a base is absolutely necessary, but I do think it gives a stable base to the train tracks and provides the means to get electrical chords out of the way.

My board is just a standard sheet from the home improvement store, which happened to perfectly fit the space I wanted. You might need to make it smaller to fit your space.

Step 2: Village Board 2

I've cut my board in half and joined with hinges. This makes storage and moving it about the house a lot easier.

I've cut several random holes in the board. These are for electrical chords so that the chords do not lie on top of the village and create unnecessary bumps.

I also added small feet to the board; this helps the electrical chords from being crushed. I might make the feet larger some day. But as the board is not walked on, it is only a platform for the village, it hasn't been a problem for me.

Once the board is down cover it with white felt. This is just a base layer of white for the whole village. I usually replace this layer of felt every two years. You will be walking and crawling on this felt while you decorate your tree and construct the rest of the village.

Once the board is down and covered, cut a hole in the felt at one of the holes in the board and place a power strip on the board with the cord going through the felt through the hole, under the board to a power outlet.

Step 3: The Stand

On the board I next place a stand. The stand provides the tunnel for the train to go through, and creates visual variety. The stand is also made of pressed wood. Simply cut two pieces of wood (mine are approximately 2 feet by 8 inches) and cut notches in the center of each. This allows them to be joined together as an X and is a very stable base. Whatever size you decide for your stand, the higher you make it, the wider it should be. Tall and skinny is a recipe for disaster.

The first couple of years I had my village the stand was used for the Christmas tree, and the village sprawled out below. Lately though, the tree has been next to the stand and this has allowed me to create more interesting layouts.

Step 4: Place and Decorate Your Tree

Once the stand is in place it is time to place and decorate your tree. Don't do anything else until it's decorated, and don't forget the put the star or angel on top. It's very difficult to put it on later once the village is finished.

Step 5: Laying the Track

Now I lay the train track. I don't always lay the track all the way around at this point, but I at least lay it in the tunnel (under the stand) and behind the tree. The rest can be done later.

My train is a Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer. I've added 8 sections of straight track to what comes in the standard Lionel package. This makes it fit the standard piece of plywood very well in a standard square oval.

Step 6: Placing Risers

I use legal books as my village risers. The risers allow me to create hills and valleys for the buildings to be on or in front of. Cinder blocks, bricks, boxes, or anything could be used for the risers. The legal books I use are decorative books on our shelves the rest of the year. At Christmas they come down and are used in the village and Christmas decorations go on the shelves, so it's a great solution for us.

The first year I rearranged the books 5 or 6 times before I was happy with my layout of the town. Now I generally get it right the first time because I can usually imagine it in my head correctly first. I don't change the layout every year. I'll keep the same layout for two years and then change it.

Step 7: Placing Buildings

After you have your risers where you think you like them, start placing your buildings. Here you are testing your layout to see how it looks. You may have to switch out books because they make certain buildings too high or too low. You may end up moving books because it just doesn't look like you visualized. This is your testing phase and it's the time to make your major changes. Once you lay down your cover felt, it's difficult to move books around and make design changes.

Step 8: Cover Felt and Replacing of Buildings

After you have the placements right, take everything off the risers and lay down your cover felt. The cover felt will be the main floor of the village that people will actually see. It will help you make the hills and valleys out of the risers and it will help hide the electrical cords. After you have the cover felt generally in place, start putting the buildings back where you had them.

Fluff the cover felt to make it look natural. Avoid hard edges. After it looks how you want it start laying the cords. Cut the cover felt and snake the lighting cords underneath to your power strip. I've switched to the multi-light cords verses the single light chords that come in with the buildings. This allows me to light more buildings with fewer outlets, and allows fewer cuts in the cover felt, but does hinder building placement as the lights are a set distance apart.

Step 9: Figurines and Finishing

Last is placing the figurines and scenery. This is mostly people and trees, but can also include bridges, fire hydrants, benches, Christmas tree farms, city lights, etc.

Most important of these is trees. I have 4 or 5 different kinds of trees that I've collected over the years. They add variety, scale and depth to the village.

I don't think you should over do using people figurines. In my opinion the people are best when they are slightly noticed, verse jumping out at you. I use them to soften the landscape, not to populate the village.

After all your figurines are placed there is one last important step. Fake snow. The little bags of snow sold at craft stores. I resisted paying for the snow for a couple of years, and then one year I broke down and bought some. What a difference it makes!! The fake snow is like the magic you sprinkle on at the end. A thin sprinkling is all that is needed, but put it everywhere; on the buildings, on the people, trees, etc. It really seems to make the overall village look better.

I hope you've enjoyed my first instructable. I've been a fan of the site and all the wonderful things everyone posts. Merry Christmas!

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19 Discussions


Reply 3 years ago

3 year old link.....

Here's a new one!


6 years ago on Introduction

Here's a link to my 2011 Village video.  2012 village is in the building stages.


3 years ago

Very Nice! Here is a link to my YouTube Channel with all of my village displays!


5 years ago on Step 9

I love your ideas next year I'm going to try some of them. I have been trying to figure out how to have the villages at different levels without spending money. The books are a wonderful idea. Thank you.


5 years ago on Introduction

It all looks so lovely. Check this out for display ideas, mountains, backdrops, etc. There are pages and pages of very detailed explanations about how to display and make Christmas villages.


5 years ago

when setting up my village or manger, I use that poly fill (used for making pillows) available at stores that sell fabric. i get the loose stuff, not sheets. then I just fluff it up.

one thing i add to my village is a small pond i just use a CD and place a tree in the middle with fake snow arround it


6 years ago on Step 9

I used to set my village up on a large banquet table. Since moving half way across Canada into a smaller home, I didn't think I'd ever be able to have my village set up again. Thanks to you, I'll be buying what I need and next year I'll have my village set up and my family will be able to enjoy looking at it again.

1 reply

8 years ago on Step 9

Ok, this is really good. The end product is amazing. I love the conpept, it looks os realistic aswell. Great job. 5* and subscribed


8 years ago on Step 9

Dude, this is so epically awesome!
My Christmas Tree this year is gonna' be one I'll talk about for years thanks to you!

1 reply

Reply 8 years ago on Step 9

Thanks Mach! I did this instructable before Christmas 2008. Each year it just gets better because I collect more buildings and more trees and more people!


8 years ago on Step 9

Looks great! Our Holiday village is one of our favorite traditions, thank you for the good tips on the instructions, i can't wait to try it.


9 years ago on Step 9

I love that you took the time to detail this project. You very clearlystated everything. Well done.


10 years ago on Introduction

Very nice!

You will allow me to disagree about not using too many people. I think people (and accessories) bring the village to life! Otherwise, it looks as though everyone is too cold to be outdoors :-) :-)

The trick is to use figurines that are closer to the scale of the buildings. Some villagers use a ton of people (see this one for an example) which gives the display a wonderfully busy look and gives the viewers much to look at. Each location can feature a mini-scene that tells a story.

I have just posted my first instructable, showing how to get figurines closer to scale. It is here. I hope to add pictures soon.

Very nice job on your instructable!!!!


10 years ago on Introduction

Nice. I have a Dept 56 "Christmas in the City" village that I put under our tree. I use Styrofoam insulation board for the base, which is around the tree base so it doesn't support the tree weight. Buildings are on risers (some of them). Plastic snow is the finishing touch. I agree - you cannot have too many trees ;-) Steve