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There are a mix of traditional and modern themes running through the display Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: An Indian expat in Dubai has spent seven years expanding and beautifying a miniature Christmas Village every festive season.

Leo Rodrigues, 57, who works as a manager, carefully packs and unpacks the model at his house in Deira to keep the tradition alive.

“I was at a local hardware story where I saw they had displayed a winter village in Dubai. I loved what they did and decided to create one at home myself. I bought props, lights the first year. It started in a small way but has grown now. Every year I keep adding props to my collection for the display,” said Rodrigues, who budgets around Dh2,000 every year towards purchasing new props and lights to add to his Christmas theme.

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Rodrigues says he is happy to allow in visitors to take pictures of the model village Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Rodrigues said he starts to set up the exhibits every year on November 15 and finishes the set up in a week’s time. “I keep the display up until January 6, which is the day when the three kings visit baby Jesus after following the star. On January 7, I bring the props down. I pack them up and carefully store it in my house only to open it again the following year.”

Visitors welcome

Rodrigues said what started as a hobby to add to the festive celebrations with family has now grown bigger.

“The first year we had family coming to visit us. But slowly people have been hearing about my themed display at home and they just pop in for a visit. They call me and say they would like to come home and see my display. Some people just ring the bell and come and click photos and take some videos and leave. I don’t mind that they do it. It is an absolute pleasure welcoming people I don’t know to my house just so they can get a peek into what I have put on display,” he said.

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Rodrigues wants to keep expanding the prop Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

The theme

A reindeer park, nativity showing the birth of Jesus, urban city life, a cultural fair, are all part of the Christmas Village theme. “The idea is to create different themes that celebrate Christmas and winter in one big space.”

Rodrigues said a good amount of planning goes into putting up the display. There are over a 100 props and items that have been added to make up the Christmas Village. He has even created artificial snow from solidified sea salt.

“Five kilogrammes of sea salt have been used so far to make snow for my display. This keeps getting added as I make new themes and add more props every year. There is a special way to making it look and feel like snow. I added a little amount of water to the salt, just enough to make it thick and solid. I left the salt to dry so solidifies and resembles snow.”

‘Urban life’

A fitness zone shows people jogging, cycling on a track. “This is to show the urban life and add the human element into my Christmas theme.”

Another display of props show people doing barbecue, partying, signifying the spirit of the season where families and friends get together and celebrate the holiday season. A dedicated space for students and a school is also there.

A railway track with moving trains is said to depict a journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and back. “There is a church just in front of the rail way tracks,” he said.

Paying tribute to fire fighters in the UAE, Rodrigues, this year, has added props to the Village theme. “I have put a fire brigade with fire fighters going towards a lighthouse.”

Another interesting display is three kings visiting baby Jesus. “I put a nativity below to replicate a shed where Jesus Christ was born.”

A reindeer park with reindeers and lights also makes for a very attractive display. Also a fair with a giant wheel and merry go around. An adorable sight is two Santa Claus sitting on a see-saw playing,” he added.

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A variety of sub-themes can be observed on closer look Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Family support

Rodrigues said: “My wife Cynthia is my biggest supporter. She does not stop me from buying the props every. She lets me grow my theme every year. I would not have been able to do this without her un-ending support. My son and his family too come down every year and help me set up the props. It is their way of showing support to my hobby and passion.”