Exploring the World of Department 56 Villages

Department 56 is most known for its beautifully crafted Christmas village buildings and accessories but it seems like they have a bazzillion different village series. Do you ever find yourself asking

“What are the differences between the Department 56 Villages?”


“How many Department 56 Villages are there?”

Well, read on because I break it down for you the differences between them and give you a complete list of Department 56 Christmas villages.

Difference Between Department 56 Villages: Original Snow Village vs. Heritage Village Collection

While it is true that Department 56 has a number of different villages, The Original Snow Village and The Heritage Village Collection are the only two Christmas collections designed to grow and change year after year. These are the two collections we will focus on in our comparison.

an infographic of christmas tree showing the differences between Department 56 Original Snow Village and Heritage Village
Department 56 Village Family Christmas Tree

The Original Snow Village is one Christmas village series while The Heritage Village Collection is an umbrella collection that includes the following Christmas Village Series: Dickens Village, New England Village, Alpine Village, Christmas in the City, and North Pole. These two collections capture the most popular village series and are what make Department 56 synonymous with Christmas Tradition. This post will provide a complete list of all (not just Christmas) Department 56 Village series produced but our comparison will focus on The Original Snow Village and the Heritage Village Collection.

There are a couple of very noticeable differences between the two series. The Original Snow Village buildings are larger ceramic buildings with a glossy finish. While the Heritage buildings are smaller, with porcelain and Matte finish. 

What is Department 56 The Original Snow Village?

The Original Snow Village is the flagship product of Department 56 and was conceived after a group of friends took a holiday trip to the Lowell Inn in Stillwater, Minnesota. The quaint village, decked out in festive Christmas decor and topped with a fresh coat of glistening snow, inspired the idea of a lighted Christmas Village. in 1976, the first 6 buildings were introduced and the Christmas Village tradition was born.

Small Town, USA is the inspiration for The Original Snow Village. The buildings reflect the charm of Main Street and the surrounding neighborhoods. It is Department 56’s largest village series and was the first to introduce special license buildings such as Mcdonald’s, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola to name just a few. Although The Original Snow Village is one series, there are a number of subseries. These subseries include American Architecture Series, Buck’s Country Series, Christmas Lane Series, Chow Town, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

The Original Snow Village buildings are made of ceramic, have a glossy glazed finish, and have a larger footprint. Village buildings aren’t always made to the same scale but in general, the village buildings are closest to the O SCALE (1:48). In my calculations they ranged from 1:40 to 1:60.

What is Department 56 Heritage Village Collection?

The Heritage Village Collection is not a single villages series, but rather a collection of 5 different series all under the Heritage Village Collection umbrella. The series includes Dickens Village, New England Village, Alpine Village, Christmas in the City, and North Pole. Listed below is a quick introduction to each series.

The 5 series of the Heritage Village Collection

Dicken’s Village Series

The first series of the Heritage Village Collection and was introduced in 1984. The series was inspired by Victorian England and many cherished novels written by Charles Dickens. The Christmas Carol of course but also, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickelby, David Copperfield, and many others. NOTE: While most of the buildings in this series are in line with the size of the Heritage Village Collection, some buildings are larger in size.

New England Series

The second series introduced under Heritage Village Collection. The series is inspired by the rolling rural farmlands to the lighthouse-speckled coastline of New England. The focus is on harvest time and the beautiful changing of the season as we head into Christmas time.

Alpine Village Series

The third series added to the Heritage Village Collection. Introduced in 1986, it’s inspired by the mountain villages of the Alps and Germany’s Black Forest. From castles to Christmas markets, chalets to ski resorts this village series captures the charm of a mountainside Alpine Village.

Christmas in the City

The fourth installment in the Heritage Village Collection. Introduced in 1987, this village was inspired by the hustle and bustle of Big City, USA. Think New York City in the winter. These buildings have a smaller footprint and are designed to be placed closely side by side.

North Pole

This village series made its magical debut in 1990. A colorful, fun, and whimsical village where Santa and his Elves live all year. The series includes the home of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, downtown North pole with all the stores the elves need for year-round fun, and special buildings for the Reindeer.

The Heritage Village Collection buildings are made of porcelain, have a matte finish, and have a smaller footprint. Village buildings aren’t always made to the same scale but in general, the Heritage village buildings are closest to the S SCALE (1:64). In my calculations they ranged from 1:53 to 1:72

How Many Department 56 Villages are there?

Take a seat, because it can make your head spin. Department 56 has dozens of other village series we didn’t cover yet in this post. Things get even more confusing when you include all the village series Department 56 specifically designed and produced exclusively for other companies. Let’s get into it.

The Complete Department 56 Village List: Diving into Lesser-Known Collections

Department 56 Villages fall into 2 categories. The first are villages that are meant to grow and change year after year. The Original Snow Village and The Heritage Village Collections fall into this category. Each year new buildings make their debut and others are retired. However, Department 56 has many other village series that are intentionally designed to be small and limited in the number of buildings and years produced. It’s also worth mentioning that many of these Department 56 village series are not Christmas Villages but can be used in a Christmas village.

Below is a table displaying the complete Department 56 Village list.

Complete Department 56 Village List

The Original Snow VillageHeritage Village CollectionSmall Village CollectionsIconic and Licensed Collections
The Original Snow Village (Christmas)Dickens VillageMeadowlandDisney Park Village
Small limited subseries include:Dickens Village subseries: Dickens A Christmas CarolStorybook VillageA Christmas Story
Chow Town SeriesNew England VillageThe Historical Landmark SeriesGrinch Village
The American Architecture SeriesAlpine VillageSeasons Bay SeriesT’was The Night Before Christmas
Bucks Country SeriesChristmas in the CityLiterary Classics CollectionDisney Mickey’s Merry Christmas Village
Christmas Lane SeriesNorth Pole SeriesSnowy Pine HillsHarry Potter
National Lampoon’s Christmas VacationNorth Pole Subseries: ElflandAmerican Pride CollectionHot Properties! Collection
The Original Snow Village HalloweenNorth Pole Subseries: Woods CollectionCarnivalHot Classics! Collection
The Original Snow Village Celebrate LoveThe Holy Land Collection: Little Town of Bethlehem SeriesLegends of Sleepy Hallow-een
The Original Snow Village EasterThe Holy Land Collection: The Easter Story SeriesPeanuts
The Holy Land Collection: Parables of JesusMonopoly
Winters FrostWilliamsburg
First FrostThe Simpsons
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Jim Shore Heartwood Creek
Downtown Abbey Series
Disney Frozen
Elf The Movie
Jack Daniels Village
Department 56 Christmas Village List

For an exhaustive list of every building/accessory that is part of each village series check out this Department 56 village history list page. The list includes the product ID, the year the item was introduced, and the year it was retired.

Exclusive Department 56 Village Pieces: Tailor-Made for Specific Retailers

Some of Department 56 Village series and buildings/accessories are designed exclusively for specific companies or retailers. The list is ever-growing but the table below gives information about these types of exclusive Department Village series.

TraditionsProfilesExclusive Designs
These are mid-range village series that are designed, produced, and exclusively sold through big box stores. Some examples are provided belowThese are buildings and accessories that Department 56 designed and created as promotional pieces for other companies to distribute. Some examples are provided belowThere are a number of village series and individual buildings/accessories that were specifically designed and produced exclusively for other companies. Some examples are provided below. Some of the Exclusive designs appear in Department 56 Villages.
Simple Traditions Holly Lane – Khol’sHeinzBachman’s Hometown Series
Simple Traditions Sweet Treats Express – LowesSpamSantabear Village

Simple Tradition Pine Isles – Kohl’s
Wells FargoFrango
Simple Traditions Holiday Charms – Linen-N-Things, MenardsState FarmTime To Celebrate: Merryville
Hometown Traditions American Heartland – WalmartVillage Express Van
Hometown Traditions Sweet Streets – Walmart
Traditions by Department 56 Holiday In The Woods – Menards
A table displaying the different categories of exclusive Department 56 buildings/accessories

Department 56Village Accessories: The Perfect Finishing Touches

Each village series has accessories designed to coordinate with the design and vibe of that specific series. The most prominent of these accessory series is The Original Snow Village. In addition to village-specific accessories, there are also general Village Accessories that are designed to work with any and all different village series.

It’s important to note that accessories are not the same scale as the lighted buildings and are larger by design.

“Since the pieces are made of porcelain or ceramic, they shrink when they are fired, usually about 5% to 15%. If we made the accessories any smaller, the tiny details would be lost, such as the petals on a flower or the folds in a woman’s shawl.”

Department 56 FAQ

Appreciating the Variety and Differences of Department 56 Villages

In conclusion, the vast array of Department 56 Villages showcases the brand’s commitment to quality, creativity, and tradition. By focusing on the two core collections, the Original Snow Village and Heritage Village Collection, we’ve highlighted the distinct features and characteristics that set them apart. Each collection brings a unique charm to the world of collectible village displays, creating magical scenes that evoke the spirit of the holiday season. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just beginning your journey, exploring the enchanting world of Department 56 Villages will surely add joy and wonder to your celebrations.

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