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A 50-year Christmas love affair
Hermanns house filled with sprawling villages
Penny Hermann, a retired nurse who worked for many years at Doctors Hospital of Manteca, is shown with the gingerbread tableau, one of two such settings in her family room and dining area. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Penny and Allen Hermann of Manteca have had an intense love affair for a good 50 years.

A love affair with Christmas, that is.

“She loves Christmas; we both enjoy Christmas,” said a happy Allen Hermann who retired from GTE Government Systems after 32 years, followed by a 10-year stint in production control and computer work at a sheet metal shop in Sunnyvale owned by a friend. His better half, a member of Soroptimist International, is also retired after working as director of case management and utilization review at Doctors Hospital of Manteca.

What they love about Christmas is their shared passion for miniature Christmas villages. In the last 50 years or so, the couple has been avidly purchasing and collecting three-dimensional Christmas pieces.

“They are all lighted houses and scenes, and stuff like that,” husband Allen explained.

They started buying the miniature Christmas décor when they lived in Sunnyvale. The tradition has been continued through the 18 years they’ve lived in Manteca.

“We bought a piece here and a piece there,” Allen said, with some of them given as gifts.

“Our daughter would give us things for Christmas and we’d give them things for Christmas. We buy things that mean something to us. But I ran out of room, so we stopped buying. I think last year was the last time we bought something. I just don’t have any more room for it,” he said. He and his wife have two children and four grandchildren.

The Hermanns’ Christmas villages are displayed on 9 tables in their spacious family room, on top of their television set and Penny’s entertainment centers, in the mantel – “all over the place,” Allen said.

“I enjoy it; we all enjoy it,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “I put up the houses and she puts all the little people around them.”

It takes them about a week to arrange everything.

“There are some tables that are (arranged) the same every year, and some that I vary,” he said.

A few of the arrangements are displayed outside – a ski resort, a downtown scene, and a farm, for example.

The Hermanns will enjoy their Christmas villages up to the first of the year when they start dismantling everything, then packing them carefully for next year.