The Plastic Reindeer Rule and Christmas in July

The many celebrations of Christmas in July brought to mind the understandable confusion created by the various  interpretations of what has become known as the “Plastic Reindeer Rule”. This decision by the Supreme court in 1984 refers to a Pawtucket RI case (Lynch v. Donnelly) wherein the court ruled that the city did not violate the separation of church and state when it included a Nativity scene among a number of other Christmas holiday decorations(plastic reindeer, candy canes, a wishing well, a Jewish menorah) displayed in a public park. Please see a concise discussion of this and other significant holiday cases.

Its important to note that this ruling only applies to public/government property not private property and may be modified by specific state laws or circumstances. To quote the Pew Forum on Religious Displays and the Courts ” The Supreme Court has relied heavily on a close examination of the particular history and context of each display and has largely sidestepped setting clear rules that would assist the lower courts in deciding future cases”

holy-family-catholic-league-nyc-2010So what does  this all mean to a municipality or business planning a Christmas Holiday Display? In our opinion, if you are replacing an existing creche or Nativity which you have had for a substantial period of time, don’t hesitate, the law is on your side. If you are planning a new display on municipal or state property, combine several secular pieces (Santa, Nutcracker, Snowman) with the Nativity Scene. And, of course, if your display is on church or private property, even in a high traffic, high visibility location, the law is entirely on your side.

We welcome your comments

More New Arrivals

This is an exciting and busy time of year for us. Our warehouse staff is working hard unloading multiple steel shipping containers containing boxes of our products manufactured in our factories in China and the Philippines. At the same time Claire, our buyer( and President) is busy photographing new items and sets which have just arrived so we can add or update the pictures on our website.

Some of these new items are additions to our Nativity Sets and Outdoor Nativity Scenes as well as a new Toy Soldier. We believe that it is important to continually improve and  add to our sets and individual items. We work with our factories and their designers and model makers to create new and improved Wise Men, Angels and Shepherds as well as adding dogs, goats and various barnyard animals and fowl to our Nativity Scenes.

On our website, you will now see the various social  media icons, including Facebook and Twitter. We hope you will “like” our site and share your photos and stories with us. We will be creating “Tweetable” stories and offers in the next few months as we develop these tools. More on this in our next post.

Options for Outdoor Nativity Scenes

Ever since Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Claire used live animals and local villagers to stage the Christmas Nativity, Christians in North America and around the world have used all variety of materials and figures to represent the birth of Jesus Christ. These include  banana leaves, wood and straw in Mexico,  carved wood figures in the Philippines, plastic resin and fiberglass statues in the US and Canada and  Renaissance marble works of art in Europe.

Our offerings for Outdoor Nativity Scenes are neither wood and straw nor marble, but rather fiberglass and plastic resin. These are manufactured in Asia using processes similar to building a small boat, which, hopefully will make them durable and long lasting. They are finished with sunlight resistant paint. The figures are fairly heavy, weighing as much as 90 pounds for a large life size King. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend some sort of tethering for each piece to reduce the possibility of damage from tipping over and vandalism as well as theft.

We also offer Nativity Sets with a two dimensional “cut out” look in painted wood. Each of these pieces comes with a base and attachments which can be used to create an attractive tableau in limited space.95200nst

Outdoor Versus Indoor Christmas Decor

60680stFrom the beginning of our business in 1999, we have focused on outdoor Christmas decor.We found that there wasn’t a good selection of large, high quality and durable outdoor figures such as Santa, Snowmen, Toy Soldiers, Nutcrackers, Reindeer,and particularly Nativities and Creche scenes.We have greatly expanded the available  selection of these products and our customers have expressed their appreciation.

Recently, it became apparent that there was a need and demand for indoor Christmas figures that went beyond the traditional “trim a tree” selection of lights, baubles, tinsel, tree skirts, tree stands and Christmas stockings. so we decided to create the category of indoor Christmas decor. We began last year by offering a limited selection of  beautiful, large resin and fabric Nativity figures made by one of our factories. These sold well and we have expanded the Nativities to include plush animals and new Nativity figures such as Shepherds and Angels.

In addition we have designed a wonderful new Caroling Family, with a 52in Father and Mother and a 44in daughter and 42in son. Complementing this family are two resin and fabric Santa and , just for fun, two Jesters.

More on our new items next week.

More About New Arrivals

37005st2A great benefit in dealing directly with overseas factories is that we can design and build new products which we can then offer exclusively. This means that when we experience significant customer interest in a large nutcracker, for example, we can come up with new larger size or different look and expand our business while satisfying customer desires.

We have created a number of new pieces for our Life Size Nativity Set.

We have also created two new six and one half foot (78in) Nutcracker Kings which arrive in early June.

Our First Christmas Arrivals

This is the time of year when we have visited all our factories, approved all our new designs and placed most of our orders. We have been waiting impatiently for our first shipping containers to arrive so we can start shipping our many advance orders for Nativity Sets both indoor and outdoor.Many churches, municipalities and businesses order early to ensure they get their set, because of budget timing or because they were too late deciding last year and we were sold out.

We are very excited about showing our best selling Life Size Nativity with a new King and new larger Ox and Donkey and Lambs.

43151st1Our Life Size African American Nativity has several new figures including a black Gloria Angel and Black Shepherd and is now 12 piece.

We have designed and made a new  five foot Toy Soldier and we have a Nutcracker King coming in a month or so.

All in all, a great time of year for us and our customers

Five Ideas to Prevent Stolen Christmas Decorations

My last blogpost told the story of Betty Wetmore of Columbia MO and her Santa, Sleigh and Reindeer display stolen before last Christmas. Although the police recovered her display, it was broken and she and her husband experienced a lot of stress. Every year, during the Christmas season, we are contacted by customers who have had a lamb or the baby Jesus stolen from their Nativity set, or a Nutcracker or Toy Soldier spirited away and if recovered, in poor condition. We recognize that a determined thief will eventually overcome the best security but we have some suggestions for securing your outdoor Christmas decorations that will make successful disappearance less likely.

  1. Drive a wood post or piece of steel rebar into the ground behind each standing  piece and tether the piece to the post using flexible wire, clear fishing line, or nylon ties
  2. If setting up the display on a wood surface, such as a stable for a Nativity set, screw or glue the figures to the wood surface.
  3. For smaller figures, such as Nativity animals or the baby Jesus, tether them in two places to wood pegs using clear fishing line.
  4. Some of  our larger figures have attachment brackets built in to the structure. These can be used to attach the figure to the wall behind for items such as Toy Soldiers or Nutcrackers displayed on each side of a door or to a floor or ground for such displays as Nativities.
  5. Bare ground attachments can be disguised using mulch or other ground cover.

Please note that these attachment methods can be used to prevent taller pieces falling onto hard ground or walkways and being damaged. Causes can be high winds or vandalism.

We are always looking for innovative ideas for tethering your Christmas displays. Please send us your solutions and we will feature them in an upcoming blog

A Visit for New Products

We just returned from an exciting and tiring trip to our overseas factories. Aside from many long flights, our main memories are of the skilled and creative factory managers and their dedicated and hard working supervisors and employees. We actually participated in the creation of the final specifications of a resin and fabric Caroler  group, item 60680 (picture and link to follow), as well as an all resin Caroler set for outdoor use , Item 32700 (as above)

We were presented with first approval pieces of a new King, Ox and Donkey for the 54″ Life Size Nativity and we had the fun of adding final decorative touches to these items  We had the fun of approving the new sleigh and finding a Santa for the new Santa and sleigh set and the wonderful new Nutcracker King items 37005 and 37006 which will please a lot of people.

Our approach to direct marketing to consumers is to offer a certain number of new products each year and to continue to listen to our customers regarding improvements  to existing sets and items. I think we are doing this and sales seem to indicate that it is appreciated.

We will continue to update you on these developments. We expect to start receiving replenishment stock and new item in shipments arriving May 15 and continuing through the summer.

The Season Has Started and We See Trends

My last blog exulted that the bulk of our import containers from Asia had finally arrived after many unusual and unexpected delays. Well,obviously, many customers were waiting to hear that and orders started coming in immediately. We were able to begin our on-line advertising campaign last week and our first customer newsletter went out today.

The gratifying result has been many more calls and orders. The Giant Life Size Nativity sets, 15 piece and 12 piece, are very popular and we have already re-ordered from our factory. Our large lighted frame figures and scenes are doing very well and the new Nutcrackers and Toy Soldiers that we introduced this year are attracting great interest and sales. Both categories are trending ahead of past years.

Customer service has spoken to several people who create large outdoor displays at Christmas and who want to add several of our new figures. One lady said she had invested a half million dollars in her display so far. No recession for these folks! We value our relationship with collectors and that is one reason we design and build new items each year. The other reason is that in retail, which we are on the internet, “you are only as good as your newest product” and that is what keeps us going. We have a  great designer( our president) and skilled and efficient factories, plus great staff providing superior customer service. All in all, a good combination.

Christmas, Made In America

I just returned from a stimulating visit to one of our few factories making Christmas decorations in the USA. This factory, located in a small town north of Tulsa, Oklahoma is a testament to American ingenuity and fortitude. They make a variety of outdoor lighted frames depicting the traditional Christmas figures, including The Nativity, Santas , Snowmen, Toy Soldiers, Nutcrackers, Reindeer, Elves, etc.

Well there is a lot of this product in the US market, mostly made in China, but also in Mexico. The imported product is lighter weight, less durable but cheaper and tempts  retailers who try a container load but rarely repeat their order the following year. In fact, some of this imported product ends up at the American factory for rework, so it can be finally sold.

Why is the American product better? At first glance, it doesn’t look to be made differently, with most of the fabrication and assembly work done by hand. If you look more closely at the US made product, you see heavier gauge steel and aluminum frames and accessories, you see separate clips and extra ties to attach the light sets to the frames and you see much closer spacing of lights in the set. What you don’t see is the incredible attention to detail, both in the planning of the process but also the control of the production and the raw material, semi finished and finished product. What you don’t see is the weekly “Quality Competition” where production colleagues check 55 separate quality items on randomly chosen product and only 100% perfect wins.

This is a family owned and managed company, currently touted by politicians and economists as “the backbone of American business”, When I visit and am so impressed by a 15 year old  company with, at peak, 20 employees, I am inclined, for once, to agree with the “experts”