They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in the case of Williams Lake resident Arnold Lucier and his exquisite miniature Christmas town, it sometimes takes a village to delight and inspire a community.
Each year, people of all ages flock to see the beautiful lighted streets, tiny stores, houses, churches and schoolhouses in the village featured in the home of Arnold and Gail Lucier.
“It started out as a little hobby, turned into a big hobby and now it’s a tradition,” Lucier explained. “For weeks, I hear from people, ‘Is the village up yet?’”
Many individuals and groups, including groups of school children, come to see it.
Lucier, the Region 5 Senator for Metis Nation B.C., said that family members help collect bits and pieces for the miniature village. It has grown from a coffee table with four little houses, to a four-by-eight foot table, and is now three full tables plus two tiers: all powered by a single switch.
There are lighted streetlamps, a schoolhouse, casino, church, taco stand, bakery, children’s museum, stores, a police station, campers, lighthouse, Santa’s toy shop, laundromat, railroad stations and a bowling alley. There are even miniature stylized versions of a Walmart, a Canadian Tire and a sports centre.
A tiny train, a range of figurines and animals bring an animated aspect to the village, and the overall detail is captivating.
He said that last year four classrooms from nearby Cataline Elementary School came to see the village. “One class at a time came in with their teachers, while the rest waited patiently outside. They were absolutely fascinated, calling out to each other, ‘Oh look at this’ and ‘Oh look over here.’ My wife, Gail also handed out candy canes to the kids. They went back to their classrooms and couldn’t wait to tell their parents.”
Neighbours and friends also come to see the village.
He explained that Christmas was a big thing growing up Metis on the prairies. “My mom was really into Christmas, was also really into decorating her own house for Christmas, and we all got hooked on it,” he continued.
“We all used to go to my grandma’s for Christmas. She had the best tree and would even make her own tinsel out of the linings of cigarette packages, which she collected and saved all year. She also made her own holly and had real glass bubble lights for the tree.
“I had 16 aunties and uncles; it was a large family and a full house.”
He said that one of the biggest traditions was riding a caboose – a little van you built with a wood stove inside it.
“It had no windows and was pulled by a team of horses with bells on. Inside, the kids piled on the wood box and dad sat on an upside-down bucket,” he explained. “We all traveled around over the holidays to visit neighbours. Everybody played music together: fiddles, guitars, accordions and singing.”
Arnold’s mom, who passed away a few months ago, loved the village he put together and would go to yard sales during the summer to collect bits and pieces and figurines.
He said that all his life, Christmas was a religious event enriched by family traditions. New Year’s was called ‘the kissing day,’ and Jan. 6 was All Kings Day.
“Jan. 6 was a really big day for Metis; everyone exchanged gifts, even with strangers,” he said.
He added that Metis are keepers of tradition, including the music, the jigging, the clothing and the family values, and said that it’s helped shape who he is today.
“This village in my home is part of that,” he stated.
“Seeing the look on kids faces when they see it, regardless of their culture or their nationality, that’s why we do it.”