Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Million Lights Delight Young and Old in a Small Pennsylvania Town

Christmas lights
A million lights light up the night in Bernville

Every year around November, the sleepy little borough of Bernville springs to life attracting thousands to a winter wonderland that offers up a holiday helping of Christmas spirit and this year is no different.

Excitement builds as cars approach the crest of the hill that leads to Koziar’s Christmas Village. The blinking tableau of more than a million lights elicits wide-eyed amazement as sibling’s squabble for the best window position to lay eyes on the scene below.

The popular attraction, about 50 minutes from Harrisburg, has been bringing families together for 73 years.

“I grew up in the area and enjoyed Christmas Village as a tradition,” said Wayne Hoffman, who has since relocated to Florida. “It’s one of the fondest memories of my childhood.”

Hoffman returned to Bernville a few years back to take his mother on the pilgrimage for old time’s sake.

“I was happy to fly across the country to return and reflect on the past as I sipped on hot chocolate and viewed all the fun displays,” he said.

Plastic Santa and decoration
Photo ops abound.

At Koziar’s, visitors are led on a journey around the village via painted arrows to view both indoor and outdoor displays, while music changes with each exhibit and Christmas characters like Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman greet children for photo ops.

“It all started as a ‘labor of love,’” said Sonia Koziar, recounting the story of how her father, William, would decorate the property known as Spring Lake Dairy Farm. “People started referring to our property as ‘The Christmas House,’ and, before long, people were parking on the hill and walking across the fields for a closer look.”

Each year, the project grew bigger until the family ended up planning their chores around it.

“We had to milk the cows before turning on the lights because we didn’t have enough electrical power to do both,” she said.

At the end of each year, the family would gather around the table to plan what new attractions they wanted to add the following year.

The tradition of adding items has continued since. Added just a few years ago is a life-sized brontosaurus and a light show that takes place in the middle of the pond, which features a 30-foot-high twinkling tree that reflects off the water.

They join spectacles like Santa fishing off the pier, dolphins leaping out of the lake and a gargantuan American flag that lights up an 80-foot-high silo.

“We took the flag down temporarily to fix a few bulbs, and I asked our workmen to count the lights, and they counted 2,000,” said Koziar.

The “Kissing Bridge” is also popular, and, if it could talk, it would probably have a few romantic tales to tell.

"The Kissing Bridge" has been the site of weddings.

“A lot of people meet here on their first date, and some return a few years later to pop the question,” Koziar said, with a smile. “We’ve even had a few weddings on it, which we now try to discourage, because, as you know, it’s freezing this time of year.”

Scores of handcrafted, wooden characters dot a landscape featuring a plethora of scenes in genres ranging from fairy tales to children’s books to farmsteads and Americana.

Child peers in window
Decorated windows are at a perfect height for little ones.

“We employ a full-time artist just for touch ups due to sun damage,” Koziar said.

The self-guided tour leads visitors to miniature buildings that feature various Christmas themes, many of which are just the right size for little ones to peer into via a picture window.

“The four of us donated our childhood toys for various scenes and most are still there,” she said.

Larger buildings are open for visitors to duck in out of the cold to view other attractions, such as train displays. If you get hungry, you can snack on hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, nachos and hot chocolate, which are available for a reasonable price in the refreshment barn.

Train set
A large train set is set up in one of the inside buildings.

Of course, no Christmas Village would be complete without Santa Claus, who has his own headquarters and is ready to hear the wishes of all the girls and boys who visit.

After the first of the year, Koziar’s goes through the annual ritual of tearing everything down again.

“It takes us four months to put it up and two to three months to tear it down,” said Koziar, adding that the property is used as a working farm during the year.

She said the family enjoys the enthusiasm of the crowd the most and looks forward to seeing everyone this year. Because the business is in a sprawling, outdoor area, Covid hasn't presented much of a problem, according to Koziar. She does encourage people to visit the website, however, to learn about timed entry passes, which will be required this year during prime nights during Covid.

“We all love Christmas. It’s the pleasure we get from the people who come,” she said. “The children are ecstatic because they know Santa lives here, and we hear so many stories of people returning, year after year. That’s what makes it so rewarding.”

Koziar’s Christmas Village is located in Bernville, Berks County, at 782 Christmas Village Rd. To learn more, visit