Christmas display keeps holiday spirit alive year-round in Kennewick home

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldDecember 24, 2012 

The Christmas spirit lingers year-round at one Kennewick home.

Diane Davis has been collecting ornate ceramic Victorian houses and figurines with a Christmas theme for almost 20 years. Once the houses numbered 127 -- not counting all the horses and buggies, street hawkers and miscellaneous figurines, which also number in the hundreds -- she stopped putting them away after the holidays.

"The last time I took them down was about five years ago. I spent four days, and about a gallon of (Formula) 409 cleaning them," she said.

Her mother, Margaret Smith, started the collection after moving to the Tri-Cities in 1992. She wanted a Christmas village for her fireplace mantle. The family bought a set of three houses and several figurines and added to it over the years, but recently declared a moratorium.

"My boys have told me this is it, no more. There's no more room," Davis said.

The collection is lined up several rows deep along the fireplace mantle, on extensions on either side and on a second shelf below.

"It took a lot of finagling to get it set up," Davis said.

Some of the houses came with battery-powered lights. But when Davis set up her permanent display, she replaced them with strings of small LED lights run under white batting to represent snow.

"At night, when the living room lights are off, they glow," she said.

To help anchor the smaller figurines, Davis put sheets of plastic foam under the batting. Then she hot-glued roofing nails to the bottom of the smaller figurines. It helps them stand upright and keeps them from being knocked to the floor when her long-haired black cat, Miss Kitty, tippy-toes through the collection. It seems to work.

"As far as I know she's never knocked anything over," Davis said.

A few of the houses and figurines are the popular -- and expensive -- Department 56 ceramics. Others were made by other, similar, companies. Many of them were bought by Davis and her sons during after-Christmas sales at department, craft and home decorating stores.

"Some we even found at thrift stores and garage sales. If they were a little dinged up or I didn't like the colors, I repainted them, like this one," she said, pointing to a small cottage. "It was bright orange, not my favorite color."

Watching the after-Christmas sales worked for Davis and her family, because for decades they've celebrated Christmas on New Year's.

"It just worked out better for us. It was too hard for everyone to get time off at Christmas. New Year's was easier," Davis said.

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