The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

In the Spotlight

December 28, 2012

Holiday display expands throughout Berlin home

BERLIN — Bonus Village has once again come alive, spreading Christmas cheer.

When the end of October rolls around each year, Leon and Cora Bonus start getting into the holiday spirit and begin the process of transforming their Berlin home into a festive wonderland.

It’s a tradition that was started when Mrs. Bonus was a young girl and her father would decorate their living room with a Christmas village made of cardboard and a place a train underneath the tree.

“It goes back to when I was six years old; he did that for me every year,” she said. “It had quite a few houses, stores and churches and people in the display.”

When the couple got married in 1987, Mr. Bonus decided to re-create the tradition to keep the memory alive for his wife.

He even incorporated some of the pieces from her childhood home, including a Nativity stable from Germany that dates back to the 1940s and a small medal figurine of a girl on a rocking chair.

With each passing year, the display continues to grow. It’s now to the point where it almost takes over the whole living room area.

The undertaking begins with the removal of most of the room’s furniture.

Mr. Bonus brings in the lumber, which is numbered and lettered, and assembles the display shelves.

The Christmas tree goes up next, and each year they choose a different theme and color scheme.

Beside the tree in the corner of the room is a large Nativity and, branching off in all directions, is the village.

“We have about 300 houses,” Mrs. Bonus said.

“Every year he sets it up differently. He just starts doing it and sees where it goes.”

The village is made up of several rows of Victorian homes along with churches, businesses, fire departments, bakeries and libraries.

The streets have sidewalks, lampposts and cars in front of some of the homes.

Also scattered throughout the village are motorized displays that include trains, a Christmas blimp and even Santa flying overhead in his sleigh.

One section has a carnival theme and another area boasts a marina complete with ships, lighthouses and blue-colored cotton stuffing to replicate water.

The final touch is dropping artifical snowflakes over the whole display to give it a more authentic, old-fashioned Christmas feel.

But the living room isn’t the only area in the house to receive the decked-out holiday treatment.

From the dining room to the kitchen there is a menagerie of decorations ranging from lit angels and wreaths to snowmen, decorative pillows and additional Nativity sets.

In the TV room is a smaller village display with more houses, a covered bridge, ski resort and skating pond complete with motorized skaters.

“I never feel like I have too much,” Mrs. Bonus said.

“If I get sick of something I’ll get rid of it and buy something else.”

Every year the couple opens their home to family and friends who look forward to stopping by and seeing the decorations.

“Everyone is shocked when they first see the display,” Mrs. Bonus said. “They say, ‘Holy cripe, I can’t believe it,’ and they’ll sit for an hour looking at it.”

The decorations stay out until Jan. 7, and then the process of packing it all away begins.

Every part of the village is individually wrapped and placed back into its original box.

Although it’s a lengthy process to set up and take down the display, Mrs. Bonus said they have no plans to stop the tradition.

“We enjoy doing this, we really do,” she said.

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