The Historical Sources of Outdoor Toy Soldiers at Christmastime

Les Ballets de Noël

Though it may seem somewhat peculiar at first glance—if not downright counterintuitive—the association of outdoor toy soldiers with Christmas is now well established in western cultures. Proof of that fact can be found in the sudden appearance of giant toy soldier decorations on front lawns and in shopping malls nationwide when the Christmas season rolls around.

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Applause for Mrs. Claus!

Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines

For the countless adoring fans of legendary actress and singer Angela Lansbury, her recent passing no doubt evoked visions of her most memorable roles. For many, that would no doubt be the fictional writer and sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the American whodunit series Murder, She Wrote, which ran for twelve seasons. For others, the part they remember most fondly might be the one that earned Ms. Lansbury a Tony award for the cheerfully demented Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 operatic musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

And just to give you an insight into Ms. Lansbury’s dramatic range, consider that she also played Mrs. Lovett’s polar (get it, “polar”?) opposite, the equally cheerful role of Saint Nick’s spouse in the 1996 Hallmark Home Entertainment TV movie, Mrs. Santa Claus.

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The Aerodynamic Santa Sleigh Takes Flight!

Santa Sleight Merry Christmas

In view of the current worldwide pilot shortage, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 18,000 job openings each year over the decade for pilots. Well, aren’t we fortunate that Santa is a seasoned pilot with his own non-polluting aircraft who need not endure arduous hours of initial training or mandatory recurrent training! Santa has no shortage of elf ramp agents either. And capricious fuel costs will never impact the viability of his carrot-fueled reindeer who propel the Santa sleigh at an astonishing 650 miles per second.

Beat that, Maverick, you Mach-mocking daredevil!

So how exactly does the Santa sleigh achieve this miraculous feat every Christmas? Let us investigate the aerodynamics (read “magic”) of the glowing Santa sleigh.

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How Outdoor Reindeer Come to Bring Christmas into Our Homes

Christmas wrapping paper with reindeer

We can understand how Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus came to represent the generous spirit of Christmas. He is a saint, after all. But the little town of Bethlehem isn’t particularly well known for its population of outdoor reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) grazing about. So why did Santa choose that particular hoofed beast to steer his sleigh on Christmas Day?

Could it be because this graceful animal, used as a beast of burden in the regions near the Arctic Circle, is the only deer species that can be domesticated? Or perhaps because Santa doesn’t want to share his Christmas cookies? After all, outdoor reindeer like to eat moss, herbs, ferns, grasses, shoots, and leaves. Their favorite food is lichen—a moss-like fungi. Better not bake lichen cookies for Christmas, or you’ll have reindeer thundering down your chimney instead!

Kidding aside, there are many fun facts you can learn about reindeer. Here are just a few:

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In a Humble Cave—a Life-size Nativity Set

Magi sculptures on Nativity façade of Sagrada Familia

As the Christmas season rolls around each December, re-creations of the first Nativity begin to appear. The smaller celebratory displays—also called manger scenes or crèches—might be placed on mantles or beneath Christmas trees.

Homemade indoor crèche
Small homemade Nativity crèche for indoor display

The larger ones are best set up outdoors for all to enjoy. These displays range in size and complexity from simple, smaller models to elaborate, life-size Nativity sets.

Nativity Façade of Sagrada Familia Basilica
Nativity Façade of Sagrada Familia

For pure gigantic, larger-than-life-size spectacle, however, it’s hard to beat Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. One entire towering section of the basilica, aptly named the “Nativity Façade,” fairly overflows with images of organic life of all types. It also features scenes from the life of Jesus. In one part are statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and angels; on one side of them is a sculptural group representing the adoration of the shepherds and, on the other, the three wise men (detail featured at the beginning of this article).

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The Giant Snowman Comes to the Silver Screen

Giant snowman in parking lot

Winter brings to many localities chilling weather, a need for warm coats, and—if you’re lucky—snow. Children watch white flakes coat the yard and road, crossing their fingers that school will be closed for the day. (Parents, on the other hand, might be crossing their fingers that school stays open!) That lovely snowfall draws kids and adults alike outside to make snow angels and go sledding down nearby hills. And then there is the epitome of snow fun—building a giant snowman.

There is joy not only in rolling big snowballs for the body and the head, but also in deciding what should make the nose (possibly a carrot or shiny button?), mouth (pebbles, maybe?), and eyes (pieces of coal or perhaps more buttons?); and then finding sticks for arms and a jaunty hat to complete this frozen artwork.

You can make snowmen of all sizes, of course. But the most fun seems to be in building a giant snowman—the bigger, the better. Not only will he stand out, but he’ll last longer too! But what if the weather won’t cooperate, or you just don’t have the time? As it happens, anyone—whether they live in areas where there is lots of snow or no snow at all—can decorate their lawns and homes for winter or for the Christmas season with a festive, non-melting giant snowman!

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The Surprising Origin of Giant Nutcracker Christmas Decorations

Two Giant Nutcrackers guarding building entrance

When it’s time to seek out new decorations for the Christmas holiday, we might visit stores or browse online in search of those regal, festive figures, the nutcrackers. Often dressed in red, green, and gold, they stand ready to perform their duty, be it crack a bowl full of roasted chestnuts as part of a party snack or grace a holly-covered mantle near the sparkling Christmas tree. And not only are nutcrackers crafted in “snack” size, these days there are stately giant nutcrackers found in holiday displays all over, from North to South, East to West, heralding the season on snow-covered stretches or warm, sunny lawns.
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How the Giant Gingerbread Man Joined in the Joy of Christmas

Gingerbread man cookies for Christmas

How much fun is it to drive through neighborhoods during the Christmas season to check out decorations people have on exhibit in their yards? Look! There are red and green lights around the windows of this house and a bobbing, inflatable Santa near the garden. Every single tree beside the next house is adorned with large, colorful ornaments. And oh, the people who live in this house certainly know how to put on a show…they have a manger scene complete with the Holy Family and Wise Men, a row of light-up candy canes along the sidewalk, and a giant gingerbread man that smiles and holds his arms out to passersby. How cheerful! We should wave back!

And that got us to thinking: how in the world did something like gingerbread—and giant gingerbread men in particular—become associated with Christmas? They certainly aren’t mentioned in the New Testament recounting of the first Nativity!

Interesting story….

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Giant Toy Soldiers at Christmastime and Through History: Guardians of Home, Hearth, and Holiday

Giant toy soldier

The first clue that the Christmas season is upon us and about to get into full swing is the appearance of large, outdoor holiday decorations on lawns and roofs, and in front of homes, places of worship, and business establishments. These include Christmas trees and wreaths, live-size manger scenes, huge candy canes, and assorted oversized Santa Clauses, merry elves, and reindeer bedecked in jingle bells. Among these, one is also likely to see at least a few giant toy soldiers, standing either proudly alone at attention or in festive regiments. The question is….

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Think About Your Nativity Sets Well Ahead of Christmas

Whether you need a high-end, beautiful nativity set for the Christmas season for your church, shopping center, museum, or another public facing area, it’s better to think ahead! Scrambling for a major purchase such as an excellent quality, crafted life-size nativity set at the last second is bound to get you into trouble when you’re making a thousand other preparations for the holiday season at the same time. Planning well ahead and ensuring you have a high-quality outdoor nativity scene prepared while everyone else is waiting to order certainly has its benefits. Here are three reasons you should consider purchasing your life-size nativity sets well ahead of time this year.

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