It started rather simply — with six buildings. From those humble beginnings as a Christmas decorating activity with their children, a holiday tradition has blossomed for Pat and Archie Conduff, of rural Newton.
"We got started about 50 years ago," Pat said. "These six little buildings ... we ordered and had the kids to help us paint them. We put it on the mantle, and after that it grew."
Now, the Conduffs' Christmas village collection includes 100-plus buildings — with everything from an ice skating rink to a farmhouse to a working model train (with tunnel pass and all).
Starting out with six buildings, the collection was contained enough to be placed on the Conduffs' mantle. As it continued to grow, it was transported to the cover of their hot tub. Eventually, it grew large enough that Archie had to build a custom table — in sections — to hold the entire Christmas village, which is operated on five different electrical circuits.
Part of the reason the Conduffs' collection has continued to grow is that they were avid travelers, and once the village was started they were looking for new buildings wherever they went.
"When we'd go on a trip somewhere, if we happened to see a place that sold Christmas figurines, well, we brought it up as a souvenir and then just each year kind of added to it," Pat said.
Trips for the Conduffs led to souvenirs being added to the collection from as far away as Scotland and Germany.
Admittedly, Pat said it has become tougher to put the Christmas village up each year (given the sheer size) and noted the torch may need to be passed to the Conduffs' children in the near future.
During the current holiday season, the Conduffs said they started putting the village up — little by little — beginning back in October.
Large as the collection is, too, Pat said there is no set order or layout for the Christmas village — she just picks up a piece and decides where to put it. That, she admitted, is one of her favorite parts.
Both the Conduffs and their children quickly became enamored with the tradition of the Christmas village, something that has been passed down to the next generation. With great-grandchildren now, there is a new generation that has come to enjoy the Conduffs' Christmas tradition. One great-grandson in particular, Pat noted, gets a special enjoyment from watching the train disappear into the tunnel pass and then re-emerge.
Pushed on who gets more fulfillment from the Christmas display, Pat said it's a tie between the older and newer generation, but she is grateful that one simple act gave way to such an ingrained family tradition.
"It's a blessing that we were able to be different places to pick different things up," Pat said, "and a blessing that we have kids, grandkids and great-grandkids who can enjoy it."