Antoinette's Christmas Mantel: Season One

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I began arranging Christmas villages on our mantel a few years ago, mostly because villages are harder to set up under a tree, and also to keep our Godzilla cats from stomping them. The fragile cardboard houses are from around 1930 pre-war Japan, and the tiny figures (tin Zinnfiguren) are mostly pre-war Germany. As satisfying as this ephemeral holiday art is to create, I found that it needed a story. I began my Christmas tale with this mantel tableau and have added characters and their stories to it every year for a decade since then.

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A Parade in the Village

Each Christmas when I begin to assemble my antique village, I run into the same old problem: the mantel can only fit a dozen or so houses, and over time I have collected more than that. So every year I have to leave well-loved houses and tin figures in their storage boxes, even though Christmas should be their season to come alive. For this mantel, I've assembled fourteen of my very favorite Japanese cardboard houses, along with the cast of tin characters that people them. No Hawthorne, Lemax, or Dept. 56 houses in this village -- just an assortment of sweet, dusty, slightly tattered cardboard structures that have somehow managed to survive three quarters of a century without getting crushed and tossed. Read and enjoy!

The little village is having its first Christmas parade. As in any small town, there are probably more people and kids in the parade than at the parade, but that's what it's all about -- the chance for everyone to be a star, if only for a little while. There's lots of excitement and just plain joy here, especially among the children. Presents and candy will also be part of the day's treats; it's almost more than the children can bear. A perfect day, and it's not even Christmas yet!

The parade was the mayor's idea. Mayor Albert Pittman is young and ambitious and recently married to Lavinia Von Struss, daughter of Peter Von Struss, the richest man in town and a person of vast property. The mayor has used his father-in-law's connections to invite two different bands, complete in their historical costume, from abroad. Mayor Pittman is immensely proud of that; it gives his town a cosmopolitan air that he feels has been missing.

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