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Villages and Nativity Scenes

Villages Display Techniques


Designing a Christmas village display is an expression of individual taste that requires imagination, planning, thoughtful selection, and a basic understanding of style concepts. The most eye-catching displays are visually balanced, offering a contrast of shapes, texture, and color.

New Christmas village (and Halloween village) collections are created each year, so not only can you make a fine set, but you can continue to add to it year after year.


Preferably, you should choose a central spot of your house for your village location, where it can be easily seen by family and guests. Limited space should not limit your aspirations to create an attractive display. Consider some of these location ideas:

  • In a wreath
  • On a mantel
  • In a bookcase
  • In a bay window
  • Up a staircase
  • On top of the piano
  • Inside a roll-top desk
  • As a centerpiece in the dining room
  • Under the Christmas tree

Most villages have at least a few elements that need to be plugged in, so you will want to make sure you are close to an outlet. You may also need a multiple outlet extension cord.


Make a blueprint or layout of how you want to arrange your display. One idea is to create a town square, using a miniature tree as a village centerpiece, and plan your village around it. This will give the true impression of a Christmas village.

Christmas Village

Take a look at the details of your village buildings. Some have sides, porches, or doorways that you may want to feature. Buildings can be set diagonally to feature details which might be hidden if the buildings are placed in a straight row.

Place the buildings on a piece of paper or poster board and trace the outline of their bases. Make sure not to use a permanent marker in case you accidentally touch the buildings. Label each outline with the name of the corresponding village piece. Consider the placement of your mountains, ponds, roadways and large accessories.

The Base:

Create a base for your display. If you would like to stagger the height of buildings, consider adding small boxes to the surface as stands, to create hills. The appearance of these boxes will not matter, as they will not be visible once the setup is finished. Placing a second, lower table in front of the first also works for creating elevations, or a slope.

A good idea is to cover your base with a white cloth. This covers the boxes and creates a single, staggered surface. A good trick is to add a strand of clear lights, randomly positioned under the cloth. This creates an illusion of bright and sparkling snow on the ground of your village. (Scroll down, or click here for detailed instructions on creating a base).


An backdrop for your display will create a “finished" look. You can paint a beautiful cloud-filled sky, a mountain range, big city skyscrapers, or a forest of evergreen trees yourself. You can create a dramatic waterfall in a mountain scene, or a skating pond in a winter scene. If your village feels small, placing a mirror behind it can make the scene appear bigger.

The Buildings:

After you've created a base and backdrop, it’s time to add your buildings. Make sure that you do not place them too closely together. For buildings with plug in lights, use cotton or the base cloth to cover up the cords.

Christmas Nativity Scene

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Don't forget to add people, snowmen, and other accessories! A mixture of trees can add ambiance and a sense of realism to any display. Fences, walls and trees can also be used to add privacy and beauty to each home, or can be used to separate gardens and areas of work and recreation. Consider the architecture of your buildings and where you plan to place the boundaries.

Add extra charm to your display with interesting roads, paths and walkways. Materials should be chosen for their interesting texture or color. Sawdust or straw can be used as a ground cover near farm buildings, while small stones work well for quaint country roads.

For a finishing touch, think about using spray-on snow on the branches of the tree, or placing handfuls of cotton around the base, for a feeling of deep snow. Imitation snow can be sprinkled on the entire set, or white glitter can be applied lightly for a beautiful touch. You can also hang tiny snowflakes from the ceiling above the village, or cover the wall behind the village with them.

Shop Village Accessories

Creating a Base

Materials for Large Village Base (4 ft x 8 ft):

  • Styrofoam sheets
  • Plywood
  • Wallboard saw/electric foam cutter/sharp utility knife
  • Wire brush


  1. Start with 8 sheets 4 ft x 8 ft white Styrofoam. 6 of the sheets should be 2" thick, one sheet 1 1⁄2" thick, and 1 sheet 3⁄4" thick.
  2. Stack 2 of the 2" Styrofoam sheets on top of plywood.
  3. Cut a 6" x 14" rectangle in both layers to create a 4" cavity.
  4. Use 2 3-Prong power strips in cavity. Plug AC/DC and Adapters into the power strips.
  5. With a hot wire or sharp utility knife, cut a variety of levels with the rest of the Styrofoam to create elevations.
  6. Wooden skewers are ideal to keep levels in place.
  7. Place houses as desired and light with six or twenty socket light sets.
  8. Place accessories and landscaping to complete the display.

Making a Small or Medium Base:

  • Cut a free form or traced piece of white Styrofoam to fit a specific area such as the top of a hutch or sofa table, a wall or table fixture, or a basket or tray for centerpieces.
  • Cut a cavity to hide electrical cords or tuck them under foam.
  • With a hot wire or sharp utility knife, cut a variety of levels with the rest of the Styrofoam to create elevations.
  • Use wooden skewers to keep levels in place.
  • Place houses as desired and light with six socket light sets.
  • Use accessories and landscaping to complete the display.

Setting Up a Nativity Scene

Christmas Nativity Scene

Most nativity scenes are set in a traditional arrangement, therefore there is a simple procedure in order to set one up in the proper fashion. No matter the style or scale, it is likely that there are some universal themes, so check for these first when planning your decoration.

First, find a suitable table with ample space on it for your desired scene. Then place your table somewhere where there will be a minimal chance of it being disturbed or bumped into.

The center figure of the nativity set is, of course, the baby Jesus. Some traditions suggest leaving the manger crib empty until Christmas; this is a personal choice. In either case, this figure must be in the center. Mary will be the closest figure to baby Jesus, looking down at the manger. Joseph is typically placed in the center as well, though many put him further away, depending on if the figure is looking down or not.

After the main family has been placed, it is a matter of slowly expanding backwards and outwards. Usually no other human figures are placed in the stable itself. The shepherd figures are the next closest, with the wise men placed just beyond them. Any angels or animals can be liberally scattered around the scene where needed, though often you will see sheep near the shepherds and camels with the wise men.

Some sets come with a specific angel figure that is meant to be hung. It is usually hung from the top of the stable, to hover over the entire setting.

And with that, your scene is fully and properly set up. If you have children, consider letting them help set up the scene as part of a story, adding characters are they are mentioned, perhaps starting a lovely new Christmas tradition.

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