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US Christmas Village Brings Back Nostalgic Memories

  • Deborah Block

When nightfall comes to rural Bernville, Pennsylvania, more than 1 million lights on an old family farm transform the valley into a picturesque Christmas village.

Visitors to Koziar's Christmas Village see lighted sculptures and make-believe village buildings, like a church, ice cream store and firehouse. And at Santa's workshop, children can tell the jolly old man what they want for Christmas.

It all began in 1948 when dairy farmer William Koziar put Christmas lights and decorations on his family's 1870s home. Each year after that, he added more lights around the farm.

"He decorated the big silo, and he put things in the windows in the barn,” said Beverly Koziar, one of his four children. “And, at the same time, we still had 40 cows being milked."

The light show drew carloads of visitors on the dark, rural road next to the farm.

"And people just heard about it," daughter Koziar said. "And then they just started to come and line up on the hill and they would wait for the lights to go on."

Later, handmade village buildings were added.

For kids, young ...

What started as family fun turned into a paid attraction in the 1950s. William Koziar ran it until he died about 30 years ago. Now his daughters, Beverly Koziar and Sonia Ochroch, keep the village going.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors come during the two months the village is open. Some first visited when they were children; now, they bring their own kids.

Youngster Tommy Zadeh enjoyed the colorful sculptures, a toy plane and Santa with his reindeer.

"I think they are pretty amazing because they also move," he said.

… and old

Now in her early 70s, Koziar is as enthusiastic as the children who come to visit.

"This drugstore was named after my mother, Grace, who passed away," she said, pointing out various attractions. "Here's the wishing well that's been on the farm since I was a little girl. People toss money into it that goes to charity."

Visitor Margaret McDermott looked through a window in the house where some of the family's treasured old toys are featured.

"I am 78 years old, but I love Christmas because of the birth of Jesus, and all the lights,” she said. “It just makes me happy."

The Koziar children follow their father's tradition by adding new features, like this year's modern Christmas-tree light display that turns different colors.

"But we keep the village as nostalgic as we can,” Koziar said. “To this day, we still enjoy seeing people have so much fun here."