Looking at it can leave you with a sense of awe. Try not to touch! Senior writer Lara Pickford-Gordon pays a visit to
the Christmas village in Woodbrook. Photos: Raymond Syms
There’s a Christmas village on Gallus Street, Woodbrook. The village has many homes, four churches, a Walmart, ski resort, school, restaurant, stock exchange, produce market.
There are many scenes frozen in time such as: a family at the dinner table, a group of carolers singing, two nuns chatting outside a cathedral one of them has a book open, maybe looking at a Bible passage and nearby a friar with his hand stretched upward, a bird at his fingers—St Francis?; A man presenting a bouquet of flowers to a woman, a policeman stopping traffic for a boy and his dog to cross. The scenes were a lot to take in.
But you can’t see the village from the street though, it’s in the home of nonagenarian Leonora Grannum and it’s been her “Christmas project” for the past 27 years.
While it has not caught on in a big way locally, creating a Christmas village is a tradition in other cultures.
Grannum said she wanted her display to convey peacefulness, neighbourliness and “home”. It brought a smile to the faces of Editor Raymond Syms and I when we visited her home December 12. Grannum’s son Stafford was present to contribute to the story about the Christmas village.
The project started when the retired nurse was living in Florida. She usually bought a large Christmas tree, six feet high and four feet wide.
“One year my daughter and her friend said they would buy the tree for me and they came home with a little tree two feet wide and four feet tall and I thought ‘What am I going to do with this tree?’. It was a big house and I remember seeing a little village in a showcase and I said I’d make a story”, Grannum explained.
Her fable was about a village where the elders always erected the Christmas tree however, one year they could not because they did not have the money. “The good angel heard their plight and Christmas morning when they got up there was this huge tree in the centre of the village, and I did the village around the tree,” she said.
Homes came first, then a river and farms. The village has grown so much over the years that Grannum did not have enough space, so the farm scene has now been placed separately on a side table. Sixty-nine homes, a pharmacy and telephone exchange were omitted.
Stafford chimed in, “there is a full amusement park with bumper cars and a Ferris wheel”. He drew our attention to the traffic lights that worked; as a matter of fact, all the lights in the homes etc. work.
Her figurines used to be bought directly from a specialist store in the US, but now she orders her pieces online. “Every year you go to a store you see something,” she said. This year a miniature replica of a house from Little Women, a movie scheduled to be released on Christmas Day, was added. Grannum wanted to put a tenor pan with children. “I’m a steelpan lover from 1948 to date” she said, but it was too big for the scene.
Grannum has been doing the village singlehandedly but uses a walker now so she got some help from her nephew and a friend, whom she instructed on placement of the figurines. Stafford also assists and is her “adviser”.
She usually starts working on the Christmas village from October and dismantles at the end of January. Grannum started calling her village a “Winter village” because it remained on show until Carnival for family visiting from abroad.
Grannum said when she first went to the US in 1969, she thought snow only fell in parks. “When you live in these places you enjoy the snow fall at Christmas time and change of seasons”, she said with a smile.
Stafford recalled the light snowfall one Christmas in the 1980s that left one inch of snow on the ground. “It was one of the nicest Christmases I ever spent”, he said.
Grannum would like children looking at the village to see “what it looks like when we talk about snow”.
She never connected the Christmas village to church. It was about the images associated with the season, “you have people having dinner at Christmas time, you have Santa Claus coming giving out gifts and Christmas time we have the carolers…”
Her favourite buildings are the cathedrals. “I love them!” This is no surprise, the St Ann’s RC parishioner said, “I am a strong believer in my Catholic faith”.
At 91 years she feels closer to God. “I never knew I could have gotten this close to God; He’s kept me alive for a reason…. I have this closeness to God and His son Jesus and the Blessed Virgin mother.”
Grannum said Christmas, the birth of the Son of God, meant everything to Catholics. She added, “It means our forgiveness, our way to Heaven, our way to love; and He is going to do so much for us, teach us to love and teach us to forgive so we have to celebrate His birthday”.