HOUSTON – Rob and Rosie Martin, of Spring, have a house in the 8300 block of Hidden Trail Lane that’s decorated for the holidays like many people’s with lights, plywood cutouts and wreaths, but it’s what’s inside their home that makes it a little different than others’.
The Martins have collected Christmas villages for 35 years -- ever since Rosie’s mother-in-law gave her a single Christmas village house back in 1986.
That beloved gift led to a massive display that’s now scores of structures, from a city hall to police station and doughnut shop. (The doughnut shop, by the way, always takes up residence beside the police station each year, the couple told KPRC 2.)
Rob Martin estimates there are about 270 village pieces, collected over the years from antique shops, Walmart, Kohl’s, Home Depot, and now-defunct drugstore chain Eckerd. Some of their favorite brands -- if you’re building your own collection -- are from Department 56 and Lemax. The couple said they’ve paid a wide range of prices for the houses, from $2 to $150 for the larger feature items like the city hall.
It’s easy to see how the couple fell in love with collecting the Christmas village structures. They’re brightly colored, intricate, and sweet. And they have pretty much everything that makes a full town, from houses to nail salons to gas stations, city buildings and theaters. Some of the couple’s favorite features of the display are a train that runs through the houses and a tunnel, a fountain that has real water, a full carnival, a snow angel that moves and “extra things that are there that just brings it to life,” Rob Martin said.
Rosie Martin said her favorite structure is the city hall. She said it has an American flag that she put on it and a little man that sits in the park area.
“He sits in there every year,” she added.
They’re now only looking for things they don’t have, as they’re running out of space.
“The collection grew from coffee table to regular table to a couple of tables in the den to ‘we got to do something different,’” Rob Martin told KPRC 2 in a recent phone conversation. “People that come and see it are just amazed. We like to share, and this is a wonderful way to do it. Thanks for doing this.”
The display is an extra special treat at Christmastime for the couple’s three grandchildren.
“My grandkids just love it,” Rosie Martin said.
“We really enjoy it (too),” Rob Martin added. “It makes you feel good inside.”
It’s a lot of work, but it happens with the couple’s elbow grease year after year. The collection and the shelves that help display it are kept in a shed at the family’s home throughout the year until it takes over an entire room -- their dining room. Rosie Martin starts display construction in the weeks before Thanksgiving.
But Rob and Rosie Martin’s Christmas display doesn’t end with villages. Nativities are another beloved collection the family brings out each year. Rob Martin, now retired from his engineering job at Chevron, shared how he’d always try to bring back a nativity from his work trips for his Rosie. They now have a large collection from around the world with sets from Angola to Alaska.
But that’s not all -- this Christmas couple waits until after turkey day to put up their outside display, which is arguably just as elaborate as their indoor one.
The couple just loves Christmas -- and each other.
Referring to the massive setup with a laugh, Rob Martin told KPRC 2, “You gotta be (in love) to do this together.”