OUR PANAMA CHRISTMAS – YEAR TWO

For our Christmas vacation 2012 we decided to visit Panama. We had heard many favorable stories of beautiful beaches, accessible jungle adventures, friendly people, a sophisticated capital city and they use the US dollar. We also rationalized that it would be a great opportunity to see the Panama Canal, where all our Asian container ships pass through on their way to deliver our Christmas Nativities and displays to our New York warehouse.

Well we went to Panama and enjoyed it so much that we returned this year for Christmas 2013. In addition to all the the things we found and enjoyed in 2012, we found the Panamanians, particularly in the countryside, celebrated Christmas as the birth of Christ. Nativities and Church services were more important than gift giving.

We have some wonderful pictures of the Panamanian version of the the true meaning of Christmas. We enjoyed this old fashioned Christmas and we hope you do as well.

NEW @ CHRISTMAS NIGHT FOR 2014

Thanks to our wonderful customers, both new and returning, we had a successful 2013 season. Many of our website visitors already know this, as they have found their product choices sold out. We are working on re-stocking and expect to have most items in inventory between March 1 and May 15. A few items will not arrive until mid July.

In the meantime, we are offering our “Pay Later” Layaway purchase plan, as explained on our website and a pre-order option which protects the customer from possible price increases in product and shipping costs, with payment in advance. A pre-order customer is guaranteed not to be disappointed by finding an item sold out for the season as early as November 1.

We are improving our packaging by providing more external protection and cushioning against occasional rough handling by the courier and trucking companies. We will also be offering more  truck shipping options including priority, guaranteed day and time and “white glove” special handling which include inside delivery, product set up and removal of pallet and shipping material. For ground and courier shipments we will be offering more  products with flat rate and free shipping.

In 2014, we are introducing a number of new and redesigned products. There will be new dog statues, animals and saints for our Saint Francis Garden site and new Soldier/Nutcracker and Santa figures and redesigned Nativity figures for Christmas Night site. We will publish more details and photos of these as they come out of our factories

We are improving the speed and functionality of our websites and shopping baskets and creating sites that are equally at home on smart phones, tablets,  PC’s and Mac’s.

We will continue to update these posts, particularly as we are able to announce and display our new and redesigned products.

EATING MY WAY TO CHRISTMAS

Our business is mostly about Christmas. So when Labor Day is gone, Columbus Day is on the horizon and the leaves are turning and then falling, our excitement builds as we become busier and busier with calls and orders for our Nativities , Nutcrackers, Santa and Toy Soldiers.santa-sleigh-reindeer

Since I like to cook, the change of seasons means a change in the kind of dishes I prepare. Gone are the salads and lobster rolls, steamers and burgers on the grill. Instead we eat roasted chicken with root vegetables, chicken fricassee, steak and fries and salmon prepared several different ways. Roasted duck is a favorite and various hearty pastas, including a sinfully good carbonara with eggs and cream. I had better stop. This list is making me hungry.

Other pleasures to anticipate are the special seasonal items made by our local bakery cafe. Our town is blessed with a world class bakery cafe owned by a professionally trained perfectionist and employing some of the best pastry and bread bakers in the country. I would compare our gem to the best shops in the largest cities and our bakery would still come out ahead.

During the summer, our bakery  cafe produces fruit pies with seasonal berries, plums and fresh figs. When fall comes they  switch to pumpkin and apple pies ,as well as southern pecan pie. Thanksgiving brings cranberry walnut pie, pumpkin-caramel pecan pie and , our favorite, chocolate-pecan pie. Then there is something called a Plymouth described as “layers of chocolate mousse, pecan meringue and pumpkin mousse”. Delicious!desserts

Baked Christmas goodies include Christmas pastry cream logs and Christmas cakes with preserved fruit, but nothing like the pies. Having worked with Christmas decorations all year long, we travel at Christmas. Someplace sunny and warm. A different kind of Christmas.

Recipe for LEMON CHICKEN FRICASSEE:

INGREDIENTS

4 Pound Chicken cut into 10 pieces, Flour, Olive oil. Three cups thin sliced yellow onion, Chopped garlic clove, Juice of one lemon, Lemon cut into 10 slices, 2 cups chicken stock, 8 sprigs fresh thyme, salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F, Dredge the chicken pieces in flour  and salt and pepper and brown completely in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook at medium low for 20 minutes until soft. Add thyme and chicken pieces. Pour in stock and squeeze lemon over chicken. Place  lemon pieces on top of chicken pieces, cover pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook another 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes until done. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve on a platter with a bitter green vegetable, such as broccolini, and french bread

OFF TO A FAST START FOR THIS CHRISTMAS!

santa-sleigh-reindeer

The day after Labor Day may seem centuries away from Christmas, but that’s not the way the Christmas event planners, seasonal decorators and specialty retailers see it. These hard working and talented professionals have been researching customer requests and working on major projects for months and many are now placing orders for Nutcrackers, Caroler Sets and Santa, Sleigh and Reindeer

In addition, most military budgets finish on September 30, so the army base chapels and navy commissaries around the country and overseas are rushing to use some of their “use it or lose it” remaining funds to upgrade their Nativity or add Large Toy Soldiers to their Christmas decorations.

Military budgets, like most government budgets, are adjusted the following year based on what was used in the past year. We are not sure what affect the new government austerity will have on future expenditures..

Since these bases are the “home away from home” for military personnel at Christmas, these decorations must be important for their celebrations.

There have been several requests for a ten foot Nutcracker, twelve foot Nutcracker and a nine foot Nutcracker on a Drum. The popularity of the indoor Santa, Sleigh and Huskies gave rise to an outdoor version with beautiful fiberglass dogs. The traditional version of the Santa, Sleigh with reindeer continues to be in high demand for private homes as well as shopping centers.

This season, so far, has seen increased demand for full life size 6 foot scale Nativities, which is purchased by shopping centers, municipalities and businesses as well as churches and some very large and devout private homes.

The trend toward Christmas decorating with outdoor figures continues to grow. There are more figures available, the figures are durable and the finish is bright and long lasting.

Too Early for Christmas?

Christmas Night recently sent out an email newsletter, featuring two new large (and expensive) Christmas displays. We featured our new Silver Santa Sleigh and Reindeer in a Facebook ad and on our page. We had a lot of favorable comments but we had several comments, such as “Not now” or Too early for Christmas” or one of those text abbreviations  that I can never figure out.

We understand that some lovers of Christmas feel that the whole celebration has become too commercial and promotion of Christmas should wait until just before Thanksgiving. We want to point out some reasons why we communicate our new and featured items as early as we do.

1. Shopping malls, municipalities and large businesses plan their Christmas displays in advance, sometimes 8 to 10 months ahead. They will often request display plans and proposals from design and decoration firms, who in turn approach us for product information and quotations. Often the mall or company will contact us directly and we may have to bring in custom product for them, which may take 4 to 5 months

2. We begin selling Nativities and outdoor Christmas displays in April/May. Many times, customers who missed out last season, because we were sold out, will buy early to avoid the same problem. This means that we must often adjust our new factory orders and let customers know what we have.

3. Many people with large displays at their home or business, have already purchased the traditional Christmas figures, such as Santa, Snowman, Toy Soldier etc. and are looking for new and different designs. We design much of our product and Claire, our inventor/designer is always looking for a new approach or look to the traditional figures. Most of these new designs sell out when customers discover them.

4. Our supply chain is from the Philippines, China and the USA. Turnaround time from  Christmas Night placing the order until the container arrives at our warehouse is 10 to 12 weeks overseas and 1 to 4 weeks locally . The later in the season, the longer the lead time. This means that our last overseas order must be placed by the first week in September.

5. Many of our customers anticipate our deliveries by placing advance orders for product on the water ( in transit) or on order. We assist the ordering by offering a “Pay Later” layaway plan. This helps us plan our purchases and helps our customers avoid disappointment.

So we apologize to  customers and fans who think we are rushing Christmas, but we are primarily doing this so we don’t disappoint customers and to avoid a panic in our office. Besides we love Christmas and the arrival of every new container is like Christmas morning under the tree.santasnowedunder

NEW PRODUCTS

The lifeblood of our business is new products. This is true for any company selling to consumers, but it is somewhat more difficult for us in the Christmas business. Many Christmas figures and images are religious and or traditional. Granted, the images may reflect  local or regional visions and values, such as the difference between the “Coca Cola Santa” in the US and “Sinter Claus” in parts of Europe.

Christmas Nativity figures try to duplicate the Nativity story as originated by St Francis of Assisi and as imagined by European painters and sculptors, both in medieval times and during and after the Renaissance. The Italians generally do it best, but in their strongly individualistic way, are known to include Elvis and other celebrities in their Nativity scenes.  Fontanini, the  Italian family firm which has specialized in producing Nativity scenes of all sizes for over 100 years, has added more animals and figures of medieval “village people”. These are probably more consistent with the original vision of St Francis, who used real people and animals in his Nativity scenes.

Santa Sled with Husky Dogs
Santa Sled with Husky Dogs

Many non-religious Christmas figures are derived from the “Night Before Christmas” poem. These include Santa Claus, Reindeer and Sleigh and Santa’s Elves. Children’s tales turned into ballet  and movies provided the images of Toy Soldiers, Nutcrackers and Bears. Recent innovations include the “Victorian” figures including Carolers and Lamp Post.

So much of our new product effort is offering a new version of the classic figures, that the challenge is making the figures new and different and still appealing and seasonal. Fortunately our founder and president , Claire, is a fine arts grad and photographer with an excellent eye and color sense as well as the extreme patience and attention to detail necessary to produce winning designs. We are also fortunate to be working with several factories whose owners understand the importance of new products and employ skilled designers and sculptors.

Our latest product introduction, the enormous 12 foot Nutcracker King, item 37001, is an example of our team in action. Claire provide the original design and the factory sculpted the figure which Claire fine tuned. The factory then produced the mold and created the prototype colors and decorations based on Claire’s design. The factory also determined the sizes of the various parts and how they will be attached together for the final giant piece. The final result is a unique figure which will decorate many shopping malls, retail stores, city centers and even some mansions next Christmas.

Here is a link to our press release announcing the introduction of the 12 foot Nutcracker King

Five Ways to Care for Your Outdoor Christmas and Garden Statues

Christmas Night (and Saint Francis Garden) specializes in Christmas and Garden statues which are made of fiberglass and generally displayed outside the home. Any manufactured item, such as patio furniture, the siding on your house or children’s toys, when left outside in the sun and the elements, will fade, painted or not.. Direct sunlight will cause faster fading. Painted statues left in standing water or ice covered may chip. As our weather becomes more unstable, outdoor statues may be blown over or damaged by hail and wind. Statues may be knocked over by lawnmowers, pets or children.

Here are some recommendations for protecting and refurbishing your lawn statues and outdoor  Christmas decorations.

1. Tether the taller statues using flexible wire or nylon line or ties attached to fixed points such as fence posts or tent connections or a piece of re-bar hammered into the ground. Statues can be screwed onto a wood base or propped up with sand bags.  Tethering will eliminate or reduce falls caused by strong wind or vandalism. Nativity creche sets are often displayed in wooden stable which can provide some protection, particularly if the church or individual covers the front of the stable with clear unbreakable resin plastic.

Nativity protected by Stable and Clear Plastic
Nativity protected by Stable and Clear Plastic

2. If your statue has a small crack, through a fall, or has small chips coming off for any reason, we recommend repair with  a product called Marine Tex. This can be found in small repair kits purchased at www.jamestowndistributors.com.

3. Extensive cracking, broken parts or holes will require repair by an expert in fiberglass use and repair. Often a technician who repairs boats or other fiberglass structures such as tanks can be found online. In some parts of the country there are artists who work in materials such as fiberglass, who may also be found online.

4. A statue with a few small paint chips may be repainted. We recommend Testors flat enamel which can be found at http://www.megahobby.com/testors-paint-for-plastic-models.aspx. Be sure to purchase all the matching colors to restore the original look. Also be sure to sand the chipped areas with fine sand paper before painting.

5. If your product has faded badly or has extensive chipping, it will need complete repainting. Unless you are an artist who wants to take on the challenge, we suggest repainting in one color or a few simple colors. Go to your local paint or hardware store and ask for outdoor paint suitable for use on fiberglass. Match your colors and don’t forget to sand all the areas to be painted. Let the paint  dry completely before  trying antique finishing. If you decide to antique, pick an antique color and water it down. Saturate a cotton cloth with the antique color, squeeze out the excess paint and wipe the areas you want to add to. Immediately use a dry cloth to clean off the antique color from the adjacent areas you do not want antiqued. Do this quickly, one area at a time, before the wash dries

A carefully refurbished Christmas or Garden statue will add to the pride of ownership and display, because you have done it or supervised it yourself. It may be a way for a dedicated parishioner to do something extra for their church or a member of the community to contribute. Refurbishing will extend the life of your statues and your enjoyment of them.

FONTANINI NATIVITY FIGURES

Christmas Night has been carrying the beautiful and famous Nativity figures from Fontanini of Lucca,  Italy for over 10 years. Since our focus has mostly been on larger outdoor figures, we  initially listed the 34 Inch and 50 inch Nativity figures. We then discovered that the manufacturer does not recommend outdoor display of their marble and resin pieces, so we added the smaller, 18 inch and 27 inch Nativity  sets, which are better displayed indoors, in any case.

Fontanini figures, which have been manufactured and hand decorated by the Fontanini family for over 100 years, are classic works of art. As such, they are very expensive and sell very slowly. We have carried some larger figures, carefully packaged and protected ,in our stock for five years. The replacement cost of these figures keeps increasing, in line with higher commodity and labor costs.

We have decided to offer several of the larger sets, Holy Families. Kings and individual pieces, at greatly reduced prices to make room for faster moving items. Our prices for these items are wonderful bargains and are an opportunity for anyone who has wanted such figures but couldn’t justify the expense. Our quantities are very limited and these offers will not be repeated,by us.

One featured set is the Fontanini 50″ Holy Family

Fontanini 50" Holy Family
Fontanini 50" Holy Family

Retail price for this set is $7599.00 plus shipping.

Our special, one time, price is $2997.00 with free shipping.

St Joseph with Jesus
St Joseph with Jesus

A featured figure is St Joseph with Jesus

Retail price $999.00, special price $499.00

Please see our websites christmasnightinc.com and saintfrancisgarden.com under Fontanini Statues for other specials.

Questions About Dog Statues

Our sister website www.saintfrancisgarden.com recently added a new product category, dog statues. We have long featured statues of Saint Francis of Assisi and,  based on his life and good works, figures of various animals and children. We know that dogs are by far the most popular domestic animal in the US home and the interest in our site and our new dog statues has confirmed this. We are writing this article to try to answer some of the questions about dog statues that we are  regularly asked by our customers.39104dt001

CAN YOU MAKE A STATUE OF MY DOG THAT JUST DIED?

This is the same questions as , can you make a statue of special or rare breed of dog? As dog owners ourselves, we know the  desire to immortalize that special friend that shared our life and warmed our hearts for so long ( not long enough). As with all manufactured products, dog statues are subject to a volume/cost relationship. The more of one figure made by our factory, the lower the cost. Custom made items or, as we call them “one of’s” bear all the design, set up and mold costs for one piece,  that are spread over many pieces with volume production. In order to offer  our statues at a reasonable cost, we must stay with popular breeds .2110dt

WHEN WILL MY DOG STATUE BE IN STOCK?

Our statues are made in our factories in the Philippines and in our importers factories in China and other countries. We try to buy adequate quantities and anticipate demand, but we are not always right. Production and shipping lead times can be  12 to 16 weeks. We try to keep you informed as to expected delivery times on our website.

WHAT IS MY DOG STATUE MADE OF AND HOW DURABLE IS IT WHEN DISPLAYED OUTDOORS.?

Most of our statues are made of fiberglass or polyresin, which is plastic resin re-inforced with glass fibers and other materials, similar to how boats are made. Some of our pieces are cast in stone or cement or even metal such as brass or copper.On our website we offer full information as to the construction material of the statue.The fiberglass and polyresin pieces are usually decorated with sunlight resistant paint while the stone or cement can be natural or stained. The metal may generate it’s own patina. Fiberglass and polyresin figures ,displayed outdoors , will fade and need to be repainted even if not exposed to direct sunlight. Stone and cement  figures will need very little, if any ,refinishing.

CAN I PHYSICALLY SEE THE DOG STATUE  BEFORE I PURCHASE IT ON LINE?

As an internet marketer, we often are asked this question. Customers naturally want to see, touch and experience a figure. This is especially true with an emotional figure like a dog. We have a warehouse, not a store, so it isn’t possible for a customer to touch and feel the dog figure before we ship. We try to provide the best photography, product descriptions and information. We also offer a return option, where we may waive the restocking charge if asked.39130dt

WHAT ABOUT SHIPPING MY DOG STATUE.

Most of our dog statues are shipped by FedEx Ground and arrive in 3 to 6 days. A few of the larger fiberglass dog statues may have to ship by LTL truck. Our custom made cast stone and concrete statues are manufactured at our Chicago factory and take 4 to 8 weeks to arrive. Some of these stone dog statues are too heavy for ground shipment and must go on a wood pallet by truck. Some of our statues are offered with a fixed shipping charge to mitigate the cost. Please check our website information.

Taking Your Work On Vacation

In my last blog, I raved about beautiful and interesting Panama and what a wonderful time we had. With our website www.christmasnightinc.com we are mostly in the Christmas business. We work on the website and Christmas year round and it is hard to let go even on vacation. Since our vacation time is just before , during and after Christmas we often get to experience the way  other countries celebrate Christmas (if they do).

panama10Panama is a Christian country and the people love festivals and holidays. The truism and joke about Panamanians is that  the only thing they take seriously is their holidays. There are 14 official holidays and many more local or regional holidays. While Carnival at Easter is the largest festival, Christmas is usually marked with a festival and ,in Panama City at least, a parade with floats depicting the Nativity among other Christmas  things. Here are several pictures of the  festival and float decorations.

While we were exploring the old section of Panama City known as San Felipe or Casco Viejo, we stumbled upon the factory panama11where the Nativity and other figures for the parade floats were made. We were fortunate enough to meet a factory supervisor who is English who explained the process of carving figure from blocks of styrofoam and sealing them with fiberglass before painting and decorating. The Englishman himself was just as interesting as the factory, easily mistaken for a retired rock musician with a constant  cigarette  and the boast that a “wealthy wife” paid for his lifestyle, such as it was.

The old city of San Felipe is fascinating, with centuries old churches, refurbished buildings  housing government departments, many great restaurants and the casco-viejo-police “Tourist Police” looking like a group of New York City cops, ready to go on patrol. We will definitely return.