Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/20/17
To get in the Christmas spirit, many Central Jerseyans head to some of the region’s most festive towns, such as Flemington, Clinton and Somerville.
John DiTirro of Monroe just walks to his basement.
For the last 15 years, he has been creating an elaborate Christmas village adorned with over 200 lighted buildings and 500 accessories.
“This will be something I can leave to my daughters after I’m gone,” he said. “I never liked collecting stamps — too boring. I have no idea if it’s even worth anything.”
DiTirro started out with a modest four buildings — Cumberland House, the Toy Store, the Apothecary and the Church of the Open Door — in 1990 when he lived in Brooklyn, and when he moved to New Jersey in 1997, the display began to grow with pieces from Christmas stores from throughout North and South Carolina, where he would vacation, the Lenox Outlet in Cranbury and eBay.
“One year, I purchased so many pieces from a Carolina Christmas store that they shipped them to my home in N.J. We couldn’t fit them in the SUV,” he said.
Because of the size of the display, which as of this year cannot be expanded anymore since there is no more room in DiTirro’s basement, he needs to start setting up the week after Labor Day, which brings him to completion by Thanksgiving.
Luckily, his friends help him set up the plywood tables; his daughters assisted him before they moved.
The 25-by-8-foot display stays up until the beginning of February and DiTirro is done packing it up by Easter. One year, however, it didn’t come down until Memorial Day.
Although DiTirro can’t add buildings to the display, which contains pieces exclusively from DEPT56’s Snow Village collection and many trees from the Lemax Village collection, he can still purchase accessories.
He said that even if he had room, though, the collection has become too expensive to continue to buy — a building he would have paid $50 for five years ago now sells for $100 or more.
“Sometimes when people see it for the first time, they will stare at for a few seconds with their mouth wide open before they say something like amazing, awesome, etc.,” he said. “The pictures don’t do the display justice. You really need to see it in person.”
If you’re interested in seeing the Christmas village in person, email JIntersimone@MyCentralJersey.com, who will put you in contact with DiTirro for a free tour.