Snow Village a labor of love

Lifestyles: Jerol-Ann Gallucci inherited collection from her father, who began collecting in 1986

of the GatewayDecember 18, 2013 

All decorated for Christmas is the bank building, the school, the Starbucks and the skating rink. Snowboarders race down the mountains, cheerleaders advertise a car wash and high school sweethearts walk hand-in-hand. All of them are miniature.

Jerol-Ann Gallucci took over her father’s Snow Village in 1992. Her father began collecting the pieces in 1986. All of them are products of Department 56, a collectable company, that began producing the ceramic houses in 1976. The Snow Village is a Gallucci family tradition and each child and grandchild in the family will inherit pieces. The village sits on tables covered in white near the atrium of the Gallucci’s home in Canterwood.

When she assembles the village -- this year it took 18 days -- memories of her father come rushing back to Jerol-Ann Gallucci.

“I feel a tremendous closeness to my father (when putting it together),” she said.

She hasn’t had it up for three years, but after placing a Halloween Village in the kitchen this fall, her daughter begged her to bring back the Christmas favorite. The Halloween village was “silly” and featured animated ghost ships and witches. The Snow Village has a classic feel, Jerol-Ann Gallucci tries to keep the time period of the village between the 1920s and 1950s. There’s a bit of anachronism, however. The Starbucks piece is very popular in the family.

“I never thought, personally, I’d put it up,” she said of the village.

She tries to hide all the wires so the village has a life of its own. It’s exhausting to take down, too, as each piece has its own separate box. The village has pieces like banks and diners, but also historical pieces. Look into the house of Clement Moore, the author of The Night Before Christmas, or see Bing Crosby’s home, a replica of the Tacoma landmark.

“You could get extremely sophisticated with this,” she said. “There’s no end to it.”

Those pieces weren’t available when her father began the collection. The pieces first caught his eye when visiting The Chalet, a Christmas store in University Place. He was fascinated by the store, Jerol-Ann Gallucci said. He set up the motorized train and pieces on the floor. A simple, festive circle. Some of his pieces have been “retired” by Jerol-Ann Gallucci and sit next to the village in a display case.

The pieces will stay in the family. Each child has a section of the village, and can be a little territorial. Who gets what house can be a contentious subject.

The lights simulating warm fires, the figurines holding hands and the motorized swans swimming on the pond give the village a calm atmosphere.

“Everyone says they’d love to take a shrinking pill so they could live in the Snow Village,” John Gallucci said. It’s as if the houses and figurines are family members visiting for the holidays. “We find ourselves talking to this thing.”

When she inherited the pieces, Jerol-Ann Gallucci didn’t plan on the display she has today. She didn’t think she’d collect more. She certainly didn’t think she would be the one setting up the family’s “labor of love.”

“I just packed it away,” she said. But slowly and steadily, she kept collecting. She visits Christmas shops in Gig Harbor, Oregon and Leavenworth. She even picked up several pieces in San Antonio. It’s not a collection for just her. It’s for the family.

“For me, it’s my dad’s last hobby,” Jerol-Ann Gallucci said. “It was so simple and yet so special.”

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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