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Always Christmas of Canterbury Village in Michigan

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Amanda has lived her whole life in southeastern Michigan. She loves writing about the fun these little towns and cities have to offer!

The beauty of the old "Always Christmas" was best on display in the evening when the lights shined brightest.

The beauty of the old "Always Christmas" was best on display in the evening when the lights shined brightest.

For over twenty years "Always Christmas" has been a destination spot for travelers and holiday shoppers year-round. Opened in 1993, the Aldridge family launched this Yuletide-themed store as part of Olde World Canterbury Village in Lake Orion, Michigan. At 90,000 square feet, the holiday cheer was sprawling. Sadly the 2013 season was the last for Aldridge's Always Christmas to be seen at such great size and beauty.

But it did not close! Contrary to common town belief, the Lake Orion Christmas store did not go out of business - or even move. Well, not out of Canterbury Village anyway. It's just a tad smaller now, after the big building was sold to Woodside Bible Church in 2014 and the Christmas business was spread out to smaller shops within the same site location.

But to remember or glimpse the "old" (or should that be "olde"?) Aldridge's Always Christmas of Canterbury Village, continue scrolling down to what once was!

While almost everyone in Michigan has heard of the world's largest Christmas store out in Frankenmuth (aka Bronner's Christmas Wonderland), Always Christmas was 'always' a bit of a secret kept by its nearby towns. Located in Canterbury Village (and during the holiday season the whole Olde World village is decked out in displays of Santa and nativities) and positioned off a quiet stretch of Joslyn Road, the store received good traffic year-round but prepared for a crowd during the months of November and December.

Whether you were looking for cheap ornaments, unique decorations, inspiration, or just a 'free' Christmas activity for the family, this holiday haven supplied it. I speak from experience and fond childhood memories when I state that you could literally spend hours wandering the stretches of multiple floors in Always Christmas and still come across previously unnoticed deals or decor.

No entry fee and tons to look at kept adults and kids busy and in a merry mood thanks to sparkling lights and bulbs, a giant snow castle, life-size reindeer, full-size Christmas trees, and (of course) a constant loop of Christmas carols and hymns. The only cost came from any purchases you chose to make.

One of the old entrances into Always Christmas.

One of the old entrances into Always Christmas.

If you chose to take the main entrance into Always Christmas, you walked up wide stairs painted festive red and green with lights lining the steps for nighttime. Upon entering you were greeted by a 5-foot Santa Claus. Then step through the final door and it instantly became Christmas, no matter what the month.

The other way to enter took you through thick, old-fashioned double doors; then past a knight in shining armor, right to the front of a towering blue and white Christmas castle that stretched to the height of the second floor and appeared to come right out of a fairy tale.

Of course cash registers were located next to both of these entrance/exits!

Christmas ornaments galore!

Christmas ornaments galore!

What kid (and an awful lot of adults) wouldn't love this winter castle?

What kid (and an awful lot of adults) wouldn't love this winter castle?

Decoration

While it's certainly true that any long-lasting store sells a product people are interested in buying, I feel what drew me to visit Always Christmas each year was that while the for-sale items were often fun to look at on their own, the place was also covered floor-to-ceiling (including ON the ceiling) in Christmas beauty and silliness just for the joy of looking at it.

For example, large plastic ornaments dangled over your head. All around the tops of the walls on the main level ran shelves playing home to everything from full-size reindeer to polar bears to Eskimos to Huskies pulling sleds. Knights in shining armor were present to ‘guard’ various halls and doors of castle stone and antique wood.

Then there was the aforementioned impressive Christmas Castle. It glittered white and blue and reached up into the 'sky', or through the open space left by a circular balcony design on the main floor for people to look down upon said castle. It possibly goes without saying that this area of the store was a child magnet.

Trees of every color gave light out of corners and at one point filled a sub-floor with a mini forest of Christmas trees ranging from small to average to you-would-need-a-mansion sized. You could find traditional green or snow-brushed or go a little different with purple and pink.

A selection of the Christmas trees of Canterbury Village.

A selection of the Christmas trees of Canterbury Village.

Department 56 Village Displays

Back on the first floor there was an entire room dedicated to Department 56 Villages, all laid out beautifully on platforms for you to take as much time as you liked noticing the little details. Steps of ice were carved from Styrofoam for the little villagers and backdrops displayed mountains or city skylines for each and every town.

You could check out the Department 56 Dickens’ Village, Christmas in the City, the town of A Christmas Story, or the original Snow Village. Pieces were normally always activated, allowing the animation and lights to bring a sense of life to them.

Surprisingly, Always Christmas also has a fantastic Halloween Department 56 village! It was originally tucked into a corner of its own among all the red and green, and its design was just as elaborate as all the rest.

"For Sale"

Briefly mentioned above, there was (and is) a fine line between merchandise and just-for-fun decoration in Always Christmas. Many displays are carefully designed to entice you into a purchase, as in any shop. If perhaps there was always more detail in a D56 village layout than your average grocery store end-cap, that was the nature of Christmas product: shiny or sparkly, old-fashioned or modern, cute or quirky, subtle or gorgeous - they need to stand out. Into your head went thoughts of how great holiday themed miniature buildings and people would look in your living room or the way your Christmas tree would glitter with that particular bulb.

So yes, you could buy almost every Department 56 piece on display (though not the display pieces themselves, generally). The lovingly built up nativity scenes were all parts of collections kept in boxes just awaiting your wallet. And of course every plastic Christmas tree had a price tag attached.

The majority of the Always Christmas store consisted of ornaments for sale, however. They were everywhere, in every room, decking the walls and filling cartons and tabletops and shelves. They truly had something for everybody. Styles that were traditional, sports themed, Michigan pride, heritage-focused, woodsy and nature loving, and so on. Material might be glass or plastic, glitter or beads.

And the just plain odd could never be forgotten. Always Christmas gained something of a reputation in the late 2000's for being the place to go if you were in need of an entry for an "Ugliest Christmas Ornament" contest! Who could blame them? Amongst all that beauty there were several truly... shall we say unique styles? After all, it's not everyone in the country who thinks shining fish heads belong on Christmas trees.

A mistletoe Christmas bulb, shining golden.

A mistletoe Christmas bulb, shining golden.

Activities

While ultimately Aldridge's Always Christmas is and always has been a store, putting them in the business of selling product, they sometimes offered things to do apart from shop.

During the months of November and December children might come sit on Santa's lap as he took up residence outside the beloved snow castle. Likewise, couches or simply the floor were a fine place for kids to sit and watch a quick animatronic puppet show featuring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs putting on a little song and dance while friendly woodland critters looked on.

Or, adults might sign up for group lessons and workshops in building Department 56 displays, lead and taught by the designer of the store's very own dioramas.

There's no place like home for the holidays...

It was a sad day for me when I learned the Always Christmas store I'd loved so much as a child and wasted many a December hour in would no longer be. A smaller version, spread throughout multiple buildings, just didn't seem quite the same. I still find joy in what's left, but every now and then I like to remember the Always Christmas that was. I hope you do too!

always-christmas-a-michigan-christmas-store
always-christmas-a-michigan-christmas-store
always-christmas-a-michigan-christmas-store

Comments

Amanda (author) from Michigan, United States on January 31, 2010:

Thank you so much Rose, and I apologize for taking so long to say it :-)

Rose Kolowinski on January 03, 2010:

What a wonderful place you have described with your words and your pictures! Keep up the good work.

Amanda (author) from Michigan, United States on December 10, 2009:

Tina: Thank you, and that sounds beautiful. I'd love to be able to see NYC at Christmas.

Kamrul: I'm going to go check out your article right now. Thanks for sharing!

Zsuzsy Bee: Thanks so much!

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on December 10, 2009:

Congrats Amanda for having written this great hubnugget.

Maintenant, now first of all let me 'and out a great congratulation. You are a great example to what zhis whole 'ubnuggetry is all about... writing great 'ubs.

Zhe masses have come and voted and zhe winners for zhis week are:

29% How To Prepare A Painting With Gesso by Ben Zoltak

14% When Land Crabs Attack or how not to climb a tree by floatingmind

12% Always Christmas- A Michigan Christmas Wonderland by Amanda108

10% Biscotti- The best of cookies by ThriftyisNifty

10% Timed Portraits by hookah

congrats again kindest regards Zsuzsy

Kamrul Hassan on December 09, 2009:

Hey,

That's a brilliant work about Christmas occasion. Your works are so colorful and eye opening that everybody must appreciate. I have also created a work which is located at : https://hubpages.com/hub/Corporate-Christmas-Gifts... which is a research work about making Corporate Christmas Gifts Ideas and I think your reader can also be benefited by visit my page and reading the stuff there as well.

Thanks

Kamrul

Kamrul Hassan on December 09, 2009:

Hey,

That's a brilliant work about Christmas occasion. Your works are so colorful and eye opening that everybody must appreciate. I have also created a work which is located at : https://hubpages.com/hub/Corporate-Christmas-Gifts... which is a research work about making Corporate Christmas Gifts Ideas and I think your reader can also be benefited by visit my page and reading the stuff there as well.

Thanks

Kamrul

Tina on December 09, 2009:

I love your article and now I'm inspired to share more of my trip to NYC last week. The tree at Rockerfeller Center was magnificent as ever and Macy's was fun as always. I noticed there were fewer decorations (everyone has to cut costs somewhere) but they've really improved on customer service over the last few years ... so anyone who can visit should, i.e. NYC is only 5 hrs for me and Michigan ... quite a bit further.

Merry Christmas to all!

Amanda (author) from Michigan, United States on December 08, 2009:

Thanks for reading, the congrats, and the comment :D

prettydarkhorse from US on December 07, 2009:

congrats Hubnuggets Wannabe, and I read your article, maita

Amanda (author) from Michigan, United States on December 06, 2009:

Micky Dee: Thank you! :)

Micky Dee on December 06, 2009:

Very nice. Keep at it. This is very nice.

Amanda (author) from Michigan, United States on December 05, 2009:

Awesome! Thank you so much!

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on December 04, 2009:

I wonder what would that be like having Christmas all year round? This I have to discover yet...LOL

Congratulations for being a Hubnugget Wannabe! Yes, you've been nominated! https://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/Oulala-Zhe-B... Enjoy the Hubnuggets! Merry Christmas from the Hubnuggets Team!