100 Greatest Gifts of the Century

As many of you may already know, Department 56 has been in gift business since 1976 when The Original Snow Village was first introduced and since then we have developed other Villages as well as many giftware lines that are popular among our collectors. It seems like a long time to us, but there are other companies who have offered giftware a lot longer.

Recently, “Gifts and Decorative Accessories” magazine, a leader in our industry came up with a subjective list of the 100 greatest gifts of the last century – celebrating the 100 year anniversary of this retail trade magazine. We are proud to share portions of the article that names the best of the best – and we are ranked #2 with Department 56 Villages and #5 with Snowbabies.

Perhaps you will find some of your other favorites on this list as well.



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Santa’s Big Catch

Ever wonder how Santa spends his “off-season”? Like many of us, Santa does get a little down time to pursue his favorite activities – hunting, fishing, and gardening. And after all the years he’s been in this business, he’s entitled to a good long vacation!

With his busy fall and winter schedule the jolly old elf does find time to get out and enjoy a little fly casting and trout fishing at some of his favorite fishing spots. Christmas Lake in Oregon is his favorite, but he also likes Holiday Lake in Iowa and has been known to spend some time at Santa Claus Lake in Maine and Elf Lake up in Ontario, Canada.

You may not recognize him in June, July or August because he’s traded his red stocking cap for a bucket hat, and waders for his shiny black boots, and may even be seen with his feet up on the cooler. What’s inside you ask? We’re pretty sure that the missus has packed him a healthy lunch, and a few cold ones! This time Santa looks like he snagged a wrapped package and not the perch he was hoping for!


Mrs. Claus usually can talk him into a few days of R & R at the beach when the weather at the North Pole gets to be too much for them, and you’ll find Santa dipping his toes into the sand and relaxing in a surfside beach chair. 


Another activity that Santa enjoys that may surprise you is that he’s a pretty good cook! Mrs. Claus lets him into the kitchen on occasion to whips up one of his favorite deserts – chocolate mousse cake with chocolate frosting! Yum! (And you thought he got that waistline by eating carrots with Rudolph and the other reindeer!)



All of these pieces are part of the “Possible Dreams” collection of Santa figurines by Department 56. Designed by artist, Ann Dezendorf, these Santas appeal to everyone who loves Christmas, and the use of mixed media adds to the artistry and charm. This collection has been crafted with an emphasis on individuality since 1985 so no two pieces are exactly the same.

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The Nightmare Before Christmas


The movie “Nightmare Before Christmas” first released in 1993 has, over the years, acquired a huge cult following of fans of both Halloween and Christmas. Creator Tim Burton, a Burbank, California native expressed that “anytime there was Christmas or Halloween, it was great. It gave you some sort of texture all of a sudden that wasn’t there before.” It never left him.

There was always a thought in the back of his mind to expand on the dual theme.

1982 Burton, who was then-employed at Walt Disney Feature Animation, wrote a three-page poem entitled The Nightmare Before Christmas, drawing inspiration from television specials of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas. Burton intended to adapt the poem into a television special with the narration spoken by his favorite actor, Vincent Price who was known for his spooky spoken delivery. He also considered other options such as publishing the work as a children’s book. He created concept art and storyboards for the project in collaboration with Rick Heinrichs, who also sculpted character models for stop-action films and short movies. Initially, Disney thought the concept was a little too weird for their target audience.

Finally, in 1990, Burton worked out a deal with Disney to begin the project which was a huge success with the film being nominated for best Visual Effects.

Village Artist Tom Bates

In 2017, Department 56 has been granted the licensing rights to produce three-dimensional pieces from this popular movie, each hand crafted and hand painted in resin. Village artist, Tom Bates, enjoyed the project. He shared that he watched the movie with his daughter who loved the movie and” has seen it many, many times.” What he enjoyed most was watching the added features that showed how the Stop-motion photography was accomplished. “Each movement consisted of dozens and dozens of images put together to create a seamless action, and it they got it wrong, they had to start all over.”

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