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A LEGO Home for the Holidays: A History of LEGO's Winter Village

A LEGO Home for the Holidays: A History of LEGO's Winter Village

It's been a holiday staple in American homes for generations, but it picked up much of it's popularity in the latter-half of the 20th century.  Popular collectibles manufacturers, such as Department 56 and Lemax, brought the craze to a fever-pitch in the late 1980s and 1990s, turning average Christmas enthusiasts into porcelain investors temporarily.  It's the favorite holiday decoration to display for many, and their least favorite to take down.  That's right.  We're talking about the miniature Christmas village, city, or town.  

An example of the perfect porcelain Christmas village

The tradition, as many Christmas traditions do, stems from German culture, specifically the Pennsylvania Dutch.  The urge to build ever larger and more elaborate nativity scenes with surrounding villages, people, and attractions eventually led what we now know as the modern Christmas village - which most likely decorates the base of your Christmas tree or, and especially if you have small children, looms high on top of the kitchen cupboards.  Whether it be a miniature snow-covered post office or a set of tiny porcelain rosy-cheeked carolers, for some of us nothing signals the arrival of the Christmas season more than bringing down those large boxes from the attic or pulling them out of the storage closet and, one-by-one, very carefully, thoughtfully, and delicately displaying each piece of the village or city in such a way in order to create the perfect, most idealistic of Christmas scenes - your own Christmas utopia.  

An example of bustling porcelain Christmas scene

You can lean your head in very close to the miniature town, village, or city and imagine that you live in this perfect little world.  The dusty - yet always cheery - chimney sweep waves hello as you pass and hopes that you'll "stay warm."  The shop keeper flashes you a smile as she places garland around her shop windows.  The little boys and girls pause from building their snowman to yell "Merry Christmas!" as you pass with your arms filled with presents for the family.  The warm, marigold light spills out each building drowning the snowy streets in a joyful haze while the music of the nearby carolers dances through the chilly air.  For a moment you are part of the perfect Christmas.  A Christmas so perfect that it would make even pre-three-ghosts Ebenezer shed a joyful tear.  Well, almost perfect, that is.  There is one glaring error which severs the harmony.  It's not made of LEGO.  Luckily, LEGO has a series to help you remedy this error - LEGO's Winter Village series. 

Holiday Train [10173] Released in 2006

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Holiday Train | Set Number: 10173-1 | Pieces: 965 | Minifigures: 7 | Availability: October 24, 2006 - December 20, 2007

LEGO's Winter Village series was launched during the holiday season of 2006 on October 24th with the release of the Holiday Train [10173].  I should mention that the LEGO community does not necessarily agree on whether or not this set is or should be considered part of the Winter Village series.  Nevertheless, it did seem to spark an interest in and love for Christmas-related LEGO which undoubtedly influenced LEGO to create or continue the Winter Village series.  After all, LEGO's Winter Village offering for this year [2016] is simply an updated version of this very set.  For these reasons, I've decided to begin the history of LEGO's Winter Village with this set.  

The set was very well received upon its release, and the Holiday Train is still a much sought-after set.  The train has exponentially increased in value over the past ten years - always a good sign that a set is well admired among children and the LEGO community alike.  The Holiday Train set initially retailed in 2006 for $89.00 USD.  You'll now need to dig deep into your wallet  in order to afford the $400-$800 price tag this set now sells for on the secondary market [or you could just buy the recently released updated version of this set, Winter Holiday Train [10254] which is still available directly from LEGO for only $99.00 USD.  That's what I would do, anyway.  You're welcome, wallet.  More on set 10254 later, though].  Lastly, there is one piece which is still exclusive to the Winter Holiday Train.  The details regarding this exclusive piece are below:

Winter Village Toy Shop [10199] Released in 2009

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Village Toy Shop | Set Number: 10199-1 | Pieces: 815 | Minifigures: 7 | Availability: October 4, 2009 - November 28, 2011

Speaking of Winter Village sets which have recently been updated and re-released, the next set to be released in the Winter Village series was the Winter Village Toy Shop [10199].  After the apparent success of the Holiday Train in 2006, LEGO oddly would not release another set under the Winter Village banner until threes years later.  The Winter Village Toy Shop was released on October 4, 2009 to much fanfare.  The set was praised for its depiction of what many see as a "classic" Christmas scene.  

The set included a large Christmas tree build complete with a star on the top and simulated lights draped around its branches, a handful of mini toy builds to place under the tree as presents, a couple of carolers, a brick-built snowman, children riding skies and a snowboard, a bench where the children [or some playful adults] have clearly been constructing snowballs to prepare for a snowball battle, and, of course, a toy shop decked out with all the trappings of a Winter wonderland.  The set also included a light brick - a 2x3 brick with the built-in electronics to turn on a small light bulb housed within the brick in order to emit a small amount of light.  By default, the brick is meant to be placed on the ceiling of the Toy Shop owner's workshop, suggesting that the toy maker has been working many a late nights to produce enough product in time for the Christmas rush.  At the time of the release of the Winter Village Toy Shop the light brick had only been made available one previous set [Agents Mobile Command Center [8635] from 2008], so the inclusion of the light brick significantly increased consumer interest.  Additionally, the set also includes two pieces which are still currently exclusive to the Winter Village Toy Shop.  The exclusive pieces are as follows:

Winter Village Bakery [10216] Released in 2010

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Village Bakery | Set Number: 10216-1 | Pieces: 687 | Minifigures: 7 | Availability: October 3, 2010 - December 2, 2012

As opposed to the 3-year long gap between the release of the Holiday Train and the Winter Village Toy Shop, LEGO did not wait long to release a follow up to the Winter Village Toy Shop.  In fact, since the release of the Winter Village Toy Shop in 2009, LEGO has consistently released one Winter Village set per year providing us now with an annual LEGO holiday tradition which has spanned a total of seven years.  Insert the song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" here.

LEGO's follow up to the Winter Village Toy Shop was the [sweet smelling, I'm sure] Winter Village Bakery [10216] released on October 3, 2010.  The snow-covered bakery itself includes a fire oven and cash register on the interior and a large window in order to display the delicious goods baked within the warm walls of the bakery.  In addition to the bakery, the set included a small pond a bench where the included minifigures could ice skate or watch each other fall on the ice while relaxing on the nearby bench.  Also included is a Christmas tree seller's stand and a horse and wagon meant to haul Christmas trees for customers of the tree seller.  Winter Village Bakery also follows in the footsteps of the Winter Village Toy Shop by including one of the fairly rare light bricks.  In regards to exclusive parts, the Winter Village Bakery included a minifigure hoodie piece with a fur print exclusive to the set.  The piece is still exclusive to the Winter Village Bakery set to this day [11/24/2016].  Details regarding the piece are below:

Winter Village Post Office [10222] Released in 2011

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Village Post Office | Set Number: 10222-1 | Pieces: 822 | Minifigures: 7 | Availability: October 4, 2011 - December 9, 2012

I know what you're probably thinking at this point.  This Winter Village looks great, but how does any one mail presents to each other without a post office?  Well, that's at least what LEGO was thinking when it came to the 2011 Winter Village offering.  The next installment of the Winter Village Series was the Winter Village Post Office [10222] released on October 4, 2011.  The Winter Village Post Office continues the old-time Americana feel of the overall series by including a gazebo covered in holiday decor and truck which looks like it drove straight out of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.  

The set also includes a wintry post office build complete with detailed interior, a bench build with a large pile of snow ripe for snowball creations, and seven minifigures - 2 of which make up a 2-man holiday band equipped with a brick-built saxophone and banjo.  The Winter Village Post Office did not introduce or include any exclusive parts, but it did include the, by now, obligatory light brick in order to provide the interior of the post office with enough light to assist the community with those late afternoon shipments.  Just as the Winter Village Bakery, the Winter Village Post Office also includes an exclusive Polar Suit with Fur minifigure piece - this time in bright green.  The details of the piece are below:

Winter Village Cottage [10229] Released in 2012

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Village Cottage | Set Number: 10229-1 | Pieces: 1490 | Minifigures: 8 | Availability: October 1, 2012 - December 14, 2013

With all of the establishments to visit by 2012 within the Winter Village, it only makes sense that LEGO's next Winter Village set would be a bit more domestic.  In fact, they would attempt to bring us the most ideal of wintery domestic scenes with the Winter Village Cottage [10229] released on October 1, 2012. 

The set includes a medium blue, reddish brown, and - of course - snow-covered cottage.  Christmas lights string across the top of the cottage's exterior while the interior includes a kitchen, cozy family room complete with a Christmas tree, stockings hung on the mantle, and a fireplace which actually lights up - thanks to the inclusion of a light brick.  The upstairs of the cottage includes a small children's room where the children are typically found playing with their toys while dreaming of all the things Santa will bring this year.  In addition to the cottage, the set also includes a 1930s-style snowplough, a storage shed for the minifigures to store there wood for the winter, a sled, and an igloo build.  As the Winter Village landscape stands today, the Winter Village Cottage is still the only domestic set LEGO has released for the sub-theme.  All of the other sets included in the sub-theme are commercial establishments or vehicles.  This begs the question - when will we see another LEGO Winter Village home?  

Winter Village Market [10235] Released in 2013

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Village Market | Set Number: 10235-1 | Pieces: 1261 | Minifigures: 9 | Availability: October 1, 2013 - December 8, 2014

Speaking of home, when you are home for the holidays one of the traditional holiday outings which is made by the family is a visit to the local holiday events and/or markets.  LEGO brought both to the Winter Village with the Winter Village Market [10235] which was released on October 1, 2013.  The set includes 4 market booths: a candy stand, grill stand, baker's stand, and what LEGO refers to as the moving bucket challenge stand, which is meant to represent the classic fair game where children [or adults, no judging] attempt to throw a ping pong ball into a small bucket to win a prize.  The most significant aspect of this set is its inclusion of a total of six exclusive pieces and/or exclusive colors for particular pieces.  These pieces and/or colors are still exclusive to the Winter Village Market at the time of this writing.  The exclusive pieces and/or colors for particular pieces are as follows [names for each piece come via Brickset]:

Santa's Workshop [10245] Released in 2014

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Santa's Workshop | Set Number: 10245-1 | Pieces: 883 | Minifigures: 6 | Availability: September 18, 2014 - November 26, 2016

With the Winter Village release for 2014, LEGO decided to pull the series out the realm of realism and add a bit of traditional holiday fantasy to the village's landscape by releasing Santa's Workshop [10245] on September 18.  This begs the question - Is the Winter Village located at the North Pole?   I think the correct answer is yes, if you like, and no if you don't.  Within the context of the miniature Christmas village, the inclusion of a Santa's workshop, or a Santa's house within a collection of houses, stores, and scenes otherwise based in realism is a common aesthetic for such villages.  A good example is the Department 56 Santa's Workshop which extended into a whole North Pole theme for the collection.  Now that LEGO has introduced a North Pole element into the series, it's likely we'll see more as the series expands [a hot cocoa factory? I'll just put that idea out there].

The set includes Santa's workshop complete with Christmas lights strung across the roof of the exterior, large candy canes near the entrance, a large clock [he has to make sure he's on time to deliver those presents, and a "Santa's Workshop" sign on the side of the workshop.  In the interior includes a gift-wrapping station and fireplace on the first floor, and a large [and what looks to be very comfy] chair for Santa upstairs where he opens all of the many letters he receives from the children around the world.  The set also includes an entirely brick-built set of five reindeer along with Santa's sleigh which is packed with toys, such as a guitar, various wrapped packages, and a fairy wand.  Four minifigure elves and a toy maker with conveyer-belt are included as well to help Santa prepare for the big day.  Last but certainly not least, Santa's Workshop also includes the woman that puts the merry in merry Christmas - Mrs. Claus herself.  She's even baked some cookies for Santa and the elves to enjoy while they hastily make their Christmas day preparations.

In addition to all this Christmas goodness, Santa's Workshop also included 4 exclusive pieces:

Winter Toy Shop [10249] Released in 2015

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Toy Shop | Set Number: 10249 | Pieces: 898 | Minifigures: 8 | Availability: October 2, 2015 - Present

LEGO's seventh release for the Winter Village line, Winter Toy Shop [10249], caused some controversy within the LEGO community - specifically, with the adult fans of LEGO.  Many adult fans of LEGO were upset that LEGO did not release a brand new design for the Winter Village and, instead, decided to update a previously-released Winter Village set and re-release it is as the sole Winter Village set for 2015.  As you can see, the Winter Toy Shop is clearly an updated model of the Winter Village Toy Shop [10199] which LEGO released as the first true Winter Village set back in 2009.  

Nevertheless, the Winter Toy Shop did provide some significant updates to the overall construction of the set and the minifigures, including new "wreath" pieces, a double-sided print for the Toy Shop sign, and new prints for all of the minifigure heads.  It did also provide a new group of LEGO fans that may have missed out on their chance to purchase the toy shop initially a way to bring home a Winter Village toy shop without having to pay secondary-market prices [none of us enjoy the prices - well, I'm sure the secondary market sellers do].  Lastly, one thing that could certainly be enjoyed by all concerning the Winter Toy Shop was the amount of exclusive pieces.  The Winter Toy Shop included a whopping 11 pieces exclusive to the set.  Details regarding each exclusive piece are below:

Winter Holiday Train [10254] Released in 2016

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Holiday Train | Set Number: 10254-1 | Pieces: 734 | Minifigures: 5 | Availability: October 2, 2016 - Present

If you're on the fence in regards to whether or not the 2006 Holiday Train [10173] should be included the in the history of LEGO's Winter Village, here's a holiday train set which requires no debate over its citizenship within the Winter Village series.  LEGO's latest Winter Village offering, the Winter Holiday Train [10254], was released as the official Winter Village set for 2016 on October 2, 2016.  The set is heavily influenced by the 2006 Holiday Train, and you may even consider the 2016 holiday train a direct update of the 2006 version.  One major difference between the two sets is the inclusion of track or rail pieces in the 2016 set.  The Winter Holiday Train includes enough straight and curved rail pieces to make a full circle for your train to navigate.  The set does not include the power functions necessary to motorize the train, but those hoping to place the train around their Christmas tree can do so without purchasing any additional pieces or rails.

The set also includes a locomotive, two train cars, and a caboose which is utilized as a dining car for your minifigures.  Speaking of minifigures, Winter Holiday Train includes a total of 5 minifigures which is low for a Winter Village set.  This makes sense when you consider the inclusion of the rail pieces which most likely burned through a large portion of the budget LEGO most-likely allocated for the release of the set.  Nevertheless, the set does include a grandmother, two children [boy and girl], a train conductor, and a train ticket collector - none of which consist of any exclusive pieces or prints.  In addition to the train and the minifigures, the set also includes a number of small toy builds, such as fire truck, a boat, and a spaceship, as well as a bench and lamp post build in order to represent a train station or, at least, the illusion of one.  One of the major features of the set is the Christmas tree which is placed on the second train car.  In addition to adding to the Christmas spirit of the set, the tree also rotates on the train car as the train moves along the track, making for a joyful holiday spectacle or all the train passengers and on-lookers.  Of course, there were some exclusive pieces included in the Winter Holiday Train as well.  Details regarding these exclusive pieces are below:  

Winter Village Station [10259] Released in 2017

SET DETAILS: Set Name: Winter Village Station | Set Number: 10259-1 | Pieces: 902 | Minifigures: 5 | Availability: October 1, 2017 - Present

2017's Winter Village Station is unique in the fact that it was the first Winter Village set specifically meant to be incorporated with and compliment a previous Winter Village release - that being 2016's Winter Holiday Train [10254]. The Winter Village Station is meant to be added to the tracks included with the Winter Holiday Train set in order for the Winter Holiday Train to finally have a station [a popular criticism of 2016's Winter Holiday Train], along with a train crossing for incoming holiday traffic.  

The station includes a small interior which houses a very tiny, yet quant, cafe and the interior of a the ticket counter which is accessible from the exterior as well to allow for the minifigures to purchase their train tickets. In addition to the station the set includes a festively decorated yellow and white bus build complete with a luggage rack to store all of the passengers holiday gifts as they make their way to their family holiday celebrations. As is typical for Winter Village sets, there were a handful of pieces included in this set which are exclusive to the Winter Village Station. Details regarding these exclusive pieces are below:  

Whether or not LEGO anticipated the Winter Village series to be a hit, this sub theme of the Advanced or Expert theme has produced one set per year around the holidays for the past seven years and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.  LEGO's Winter Village and its seven-year [or ten if you count the Holiday Train from 2006] appears to only be the beginning of a now-cherished holiday tradition.  What future sets would you like to see LEGO release for the Winter Village series?  Which set do you feel is the best Winter Village set to date?   Please let us know in the comments below and keep the LEGO Winter Village conversation dashing along.

All photos used in this post are ©LEGO Group

"Whatever.  I didn't want to join your picnic anyway.  What a perfectly good waste of the Valentine's Picnic Batsuit. Rage."

"Whatever. I didn't want to join your picnic anyway. What a perfectly good waste of the Valentine's Picnic Batsuit. Rage."

LEGO Brick Friday Deals and Promotions Announced for 2016

LEGO Brick Friday Deals and Promotions Announced for 2016