Growing up an Elf in Christmas Village

Growing up an Elf in Christmas Village


Christmas was always the most wonderful time of the year on the Koziar family farm in Jefferson Township, Berks County.

“It was amazing, even to us,” says Sonia Koziar, co-owner of the world-famous Koziar’s Christmas Village near Bernville and one of four siblings who grew up on the farm, witnessing its transformation from a year-round agricultural and dairy operation to a seasonal wonder.

“We grew up with the love of Christmas,” she says. “It was always an important time of the year for our family. We loved the stories of Christmas, carols from around the world and, of course, flying down the stairs on Christmas morning, like so many other kids, to see what Santa Claus left under the tree.”

Outdoor decorations became a tradition, with lights on trees and fences in the beginning, followed by more lights on the 19th-century farmhouse and around the lake that fronts it, silently reflecting off the water on cold, crisp nights.

“So that even made it more beautiful,” Koziar says. “It started with the decorations on the house and then the barn and surrounding trees, fences and sheds. And it just kept growing every year. We continue to add even more and more things.”

Before long, the glowing farm attracted attention.

“Even in the early years, visitors from the area would come and they would park up there in the wheat field,” she says. “But because we’re on a narrow road, cars would park on the road, so my father decided he had to make an area for cars to park.”

“Every year, we’d sit around the kitchen table with my mother and father and say, ‘OK, what can we do next?’” One of their early ideas was a nativity scene, which Koziar says is very old and retains its beauty. A more unusual outcome of the Koziar family’s collective imagination was a Christmas Beneath the Sea diorama.

Chicken coops, among the first outbuildings William Koziar converted to Christmas themes, are still used for dioramas, including The Night Before Christmas, Christmas in Other Lands and Santa’s Headquarters.

In recent years, additions have included a gingerbread house, the Reading Railroad, a Christmas Jungle and a walk-through museum that exhibits memorabilia dating back to the origins of the Christmas Village and featuring some of the Koziar children’s cherished toys, sleds, and ice skates.

New this year: a decorated, lit tree on a platform in the middle of the lake and, at the request of guests, a souvenir building where logoed Koziar items such as T-shirts and sweatshirts can be purchased. More lights are added every year, and the planning with longtime staff takes the entire year, says Koziar, who manages the farm with other family members. “We’re still a working farm, but we no longer have any cows,” she says.

What her father, William Koziar, began in 1948 as a holiday tableau for his wife and children has become a seasonal attraction for thousands of people drawn to more than a million lights that illuminate the dark, hilly countryside and bring sparkle to an array of buildings and farmland. Koziar’s has been visited by tourists from all 50 states and guests from around the world. Every year, newcomers join thousands of repeat visitors who complete their family holiday tradition with a visit to Koziar’s, named Best Outdoor Christmas Display in the World by Display World magazine and a recipient of the award of excellence by the Pennsylvania Travel Council (which recognized it as one of the state’s top 10 attractions).

Koziar’s Christmas Village will open for its 73rd year on Nov. 7. The farm will be open every weekend through Thanksgiving and, afterwards, every night through and including Jan. 1.

Because of COVID-19 safety guidelines and to keep everyone safe, the village will limit the number of visits on peak nights.

“We always encourage people to come on weeknights, if possible,” Koziar says, adding that information about safety measures and visitation limits will be posted on the Koziar’s Christmas Village website and its Facebook page.

Although the family might have to rethink the Kissing Bridge, a replica of a classic Pennsylvania covered bridge and a popular destination for engagements and proposals, COVID-19 will not diminish the overall experience, Koziar says.

Part of the charm is that there are no guided tours at Koziar’s Christmas Village. Visitors have the freedom to walk at their own pace on well-lit, clearly marked paved pathways with street signs pointing the way to the farm’s 20 lit buildings and more than 30 attractions, including the Snack Shoppe (for cookies and hot chocolate on a cold night), Santa’s Home, and indoor and outdoor model train displays.

When asked what gives her the most delight year after year, Koziar doesn’t hesitate. “It brings happiness to so many people,” she says. “We literally get thousands of letters every year, even more this year from people asking if we’ll be open with the pandemic. So many have been writing and calling and saying ‘please, please, I hope you’ll be open.’

“For me and my siblings, it keeps our childhood very much alive, and it has continued to bring our family much happiness over the years.”

Koziar’s Christmas Village
782 Christmas Village Road

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