Independence Family Keeping “Christmas Garden” train tradition Alive

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Today's the day when many families deck the halls, decorating their homes for the holiday season.

One model train enthusiast is keeping an old tradition alive with a Christmas garden, bringing model trains and trees together.

A Christmas tree needs a model train running around it -- otherwise, it looks kind of naked. 66-year old Garrett Jones says that's what he learned while growing up in Baltimore, Maryland -- where it's nearly a holiday season requirement.

In fact, many families build these displays known as Christmas gardens, to which Jones and his wife Helen add something new each year. Four generations of Jones' family have made this their holiday tradition.

A small alcove of the Jones' home in Independence is a semi-permanent home to the Christmas garden, or at least, the trains. Garrett Jones says if he were to take it down, he'd need at least 12 hours to put it back.

"It virtually looks like a small village like you're up on top of a mountain looking down into this valley with all this stuff going on around you," Garrett Jones said.

Jones says the practice dates back to Europeans settling in the new world, and the idea of setting a small village under the Christmas tree. Jones' virtual town has everything you can think of -- from a hotel and fire truck to families having fun at the christmas season.

"It just seems like there should be something there beside the tree -- like that little thing going round and round just catches your eye and gives you a little more memory of when we were kids," Garrett Jones said,

"All of Garrett's families, they all had trains," Helen Jones said. "Everybody had a train garden, and everyone's was different. At holidays, people would visit and have tea and cookies and look at the trains."

"Each year, you try to find something a little bit different than you had the previous year to expand your theme," Garrett Jones said.

Jones says he isn't sure which he enjoys more -- carrying on that family tradition, or seeing the joy on people's faces when they see his Christmas garden.

The Joneses will soon hold an open house at their home to offer a first-hand look at the Christmas garden. If you'd like to contact Garrett Jones for more information, his email address is

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