all through the house

Two years ago, we inherited some Christmas figurines from my husband’s Aunt Vertie. Apparently, she loved Christmas decorations (I had never met her). I love holiday decor as well. When we were presented the opportunity to select some figures for ourselves, we focused on a rather large scale holiday dinner scene.

Melody rings bells and Carrie feeds the cardinals outside of the Bell Family’s front door.

I was captivated by the set. It was so thoroughly coordinated, each piece clearly belonging with every other one. The bases were labeled with each character’s name. Along side the name was the Dept 56 logo, which I recognized from my days as a floral designer.

“Not a Creature was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse” reading in grandpa’s lap.

The first year, I dressed our mantle with draped swags and the set of figures. The front sitting room was festive and inviting for the first year in our little hobbit house, and for our first holiday open house.

The Bell Family sits down to dinner on Christmas Day.

The following year was a subdued one, and the set stayed safely wrapped in storage.

As I unpacked the set this year, I posted an image on social media, and someone identified the series by name:

All Through the House, by Dept 56. I started a search, which resulted in two parts of a series: the night before, with everyone in their sleeping caps and pajamas; and Christmas Day, with everyone dressed for the occasion of a grand holiday celebration. I found many figures and set pieces at incredibly reasonable prices, and I started adding to my cart.


I had a mission, and I was on fire. Figures trickled in from Ebay. A great deal of a bundle on Mercari brought a large double figure and two set pieces. Our mantle was filling in.

Aunt Martha brings out the turkey at the sideboard.

I have a goal in mind moving forward: a mantle-sized stage full of risers and platforms and turntables. You see, the set pieces are double sided, making you choose which half is hidden away from view. The dining room sideboard is also the kitchen cabinetry. The attic has Santa himself “Up on the Rooftop” and I think in the near future I will develop a way to present each side as desired. We shall see…

In the kitchen, Madeline makes cookies as Christopher tastes the final product, and Caroline strings cranberries…

There is another clump of figures, some group pieces and set pieces left to go. What’s left are the pricier things and I hope to be patience as I move forward.

I am surprised at my response to this set. I’m fairly certain I wanted ever have an interest in it if we didn’t end up with Aunt Vertie’s initial collection, but interested I am. Giddy even. Some Facebook users called them creepy, but I find them awesome. The hyper palette coordination through the series calls to my inner art geekness. If holiday decor were garanimals this entire set would be Tigers because they each go perfectly with every other.

Nicholas hangs his coat with a little help.

Now, here’s the kicker: do a search for Dept 56 All Through the House. Go ahead. You will find listings on Ebay. A few items on Etsy. A handful more on Mercari. A scattering of auction and resale websites with incredibly high price markups.

Now, do a search for Dept 56. You find new items, you find past village catalogs and retirement lists and company history.

What you won’t find: any official mention that Dept 56 ever once produced or acknowledged the production of All Through the House. I am even more obsessed now. Auction listed occasional offer release and retirement years, most always mid-to-late 90s, but I can’t verify any of it.

Steven skis on new-fallen snow as Suzy and Spencer make snowballs. St. Nick looks down on all of them…

A few of the inherited pieces had some damage: a broken weather vane, a cracked finger, etc. And one new figure had a broken wrist, and another a loosed bell. The worst one: I dropped seated Nicholas the first time I unpacked the set, shattering him to pieces against our hardwood floors. I rebuilt him with superglue and he is by his sister’s side once more, waiting eagerly for dinner.

Broken and worn is not unwelcome in this house. We have both been broken. We have both been worn. We mend ourselves and carry on into our wabi-sabi life together in this wabi-sabi cottage, currently dressed up for a wabi-sabi holiday season.

I would have it no other way.

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