There are those who create miniature Christmas Villages … and then there are Lynn and Kathy Hopper, whose miniature Christmas Village has been in the Hopper family for over 100 years. Lynn’s grandmother started the collection with miniature ice skaters that were made in Germany. When the collection was passed on to Lynn’s mother, it consisted of six houses and a church. “We would go to toy stores to find little figurines to add to it,” Kathy recalls.
When Lynn’s mother passed away in 1988, the collection was passed on to him and Kathy. In the tiny village, there was a pink house that neither of them liked. “It turns out that it was one of the original Department 56 houses!” Kathy exclaims. Department 56 is a manufacturer of holiday collectibles that is well-known for their light-up Christmas Village pieces.
“Christmas means a lot to me and it meant a lot to my mother and my grandmother,” says Lynn. “We love continuing the tradition.”
The Hopper’s village has now grown to cover half of the living room floor, including 100 houses and buildings, and thousands of figurines: people, cars, trees, trains, and even a merry go ’round. There is a tiny farm with farm animals, a school bus, and a school with children playing on the playground. “We have fun with it,” Kathy says with a laugh.
During their travels around the world, the Hoppers always purchase something to add to the village, such as a replica of Big Ben, the Tower of London, and London Bridge. “Whenever I see something for the village, I’ll pick it up,” Kathy admits. They also make a yearly trip to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth. They each find pieces that suit their own personal tastes; Lynn likes White Castle hamburgers, so that was added. The tiny villagers can also enjoy Starbucks and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.
The village has grown so large, it takes the Hoppers about a month to assemble it for the holidays. It sits on a piece of quarter-inch plywood and Lynn works tediously on the wiring to hide all of the cords. “They all light up – every building,” says Lynn. “It if gets any bigger, I’ll have to put an addition on the house,” he laughs. When the village is complete, Lynn sprinkles it with artificial snow to make it look even more realistic. “It has a life of its own,” he says.
Then, there’s the famous “mouse game.” Kathy found a little white mouse figurine and it became a contest for their kids to find the mouse in the village. Now, every year they have a Mouse Party when all of the friends and family gather to see who can find the mouse.
The Hoppers are known for their joyous love of Christmas. Every year, for the 40 years they have been married, Lynn has given Kathy a beautiful nutcracker as a Christmas gift. And now, they are sharing their love of Christmas and their miniature village with their grandchildren. One-year-old Landon sits quietly watching it, completely fascinated.
Photography by Eric Dutro & Provided by the Hoppers