Last year, we created Nintendo Christmas world in our front yard. This year, we’ve added a ton of new characters to join in the fun!
What’s Nintendo Christmas World, you ask? Several years ago I had a crazy idea. You see, I’ve always wanted to have some outdoor Christmas decorations for my house. Growing up, in fact, I would always be envious of houses that had lovely outdoor light displays. I figured once I got my own house, I would have those kinds of decorations myself.
But then I found out why my parents opted to NOT decorate outdoors for Christmas. And I decided to use creativity, time, and a little elbow grease to make my dream come true in a rather unique way.
Welcome to my essay about creating Nintendo Christmas World. You can also use the table of contents below to skip straight to the video of the finished product, if you’d like to check it out! And be sure to let me know what you think in the comments.
Christmas Decorating Is Expensive!
Once I became an adult, living on my own, I did check the price for outdoor Christmas decorations.
Man, they are EXPENSIVE.
Not only are they expensive, but having just one or two just doesn’t cut it. If you want to have a large, striking display of lights you’re paying out the nose for the privilege. According to Home Advisor, homeowners will spend an average of nearly $400 to have a professional light display installed.
A single strand of icicle lights can cost $10 or $20, and you can bet that one strand isn’t enough to cover the roof of your house. Plus, if all you have is icicle lights, it just doesn’t look that good. You need lights for your bushes, lights for the sides of the house, and maybe some lights for the trees.
If you want some of those inflatable characters, it’s not uncommon to need to spend $30, $50, or $100 per character! Plus the selection of characters available in stores is usually pretty limited. As the mother of three boys, I’d like to do some decorating that kids will enjoy.
And lets not forget that every year, lights will burn out and need replacement. So decorating outdoors for Christmas isn’t a one-time purchase. You also have to usually get up on ladders to do the decorations.
So we decided to go down a different path.
A DIY Outdoor Christmas
For an outdoor display, I wanted something that was:
- Fun – For kids and adults
- Unique – You can’t find it anywhere else, and it doesn’t look like everyone elses house
- Visible at night and during the day – I’ve seen houses that look great at night, but they have nothing for Christmas visible during the day. And the reverse – homes that look great at daytime but you can’t see anything at night. I wanted both
- Relatively inexpensive – I didn’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a display
- Creative – A project we could do ourselves
- Reusable and durable – It wouldn’t burn out, break, or otherwise be unusable after a few holiday seasons
- Recyclable – If I ever decide to be done with the decorations, I prefer it not be a bunch of plastic that won’t ever degrade
The idea for Nintendo Christmas World was born a few years before I started the project. I had been toying around the with the idea of creating giant plywood characters from video games for some time. I’ve seen other plywood displays before, and always liked the look of them. Nintendo characters have a special place in my heart from childhood, and my husband is a big video game fan.
My kids also enjoy playing Nintendo games, with many of the same characters from our childhood (although they look a lot better now). So I figured that this idea would not only bring my kids joy, but also other children around the town.
I was worried this was going to be a big and difficult undertaking, and so didn’t start on the idea until last year. It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought it was going to be, and I wish I had started sooner.
How did I do it? Here’s the step-by-step.
Step 1 – Repair Last Years Creations
Since I first creating this last year, I had about ten characters in storage. After taking them out, they not only needed cleaning, but a few also needed repair.
The nails I had used last year weren’t the best at keeping the characters on their posts, and a few had fallen off. One of them had the tip of a Santa hat broken off, and it needed to be glued. And pretty much all of them required a nice cleaning, since they’d been stored away for about a year.
So this long holiday weekend, we got them out of storage, cleaned them up, and did the repairs. My husband also found better nails in the garage, and re-nailed all of them to their posts. A few of the posts split when he did this, so we stapled them together with a staple gun and glued them as well. This repair method worked well, because later when I hammered the characters into the ground the posts didn’t split any more (whew!).
Step 2 – Check and Secure Supplies
I checked all the paints from last year, discovering that my white paint had gone bad. It was a can of outdoor paint that is probably a decade old, so it’s not too surprising. I picked up this years supplies from Home Depot, which included:
- Five sheets of 4X2 plywood
- Ten large dowels, and five smaller dowels
- Three cans of paint (red, black, white) as well as a small amount of gold paint
Total cost was around $100 or so.
Step 3 – Sketch Characters
The third step in this process is to sketch out the characters. I can typically get two characters out of one sheet of plywood, so they stand two feet tall. There are a few larger characters that are three or four feet tall, and I make other things out of thosee scraps (gifts and bricks/question blocks, this year). This year I also made some Mario coins and Pikmin out of scrap pieces of wood.
Sketching them out is a key part of the process, so when I cut them and paint them, they look good. This task essentially took me all day Wednesday to do. I then took a break on Thursday for Thanksgiving festivities, jumping back into it on Friday.
Step 4 – Cut Characters
I had my jigsaw from last year, so I didn’t need to buy any cutting supplies. My husband helps by holding down the plywood as I cut, turning it as needed, and making sure I don’t hit the table with the saw. At least, most of the time.
When cutting the characters, I try not to cut any one part too thin. Otherwise, it’s prone to cracking and breaking.
Instead, if I have an area that needs to be thin, I’ll cut it thicker and paint the background black. The black is invisible at night, and not that visible during the day, so it’s a good idea.
Step 5 – Dowel the Characters
My husband did this step this year, nailing dowels into each character so they would stick in the ground.
We learned a hard lesson last year about the types of nails to use. Learn from our mistakes – use nails with a large front part so they’re very sturdy. We used some thinner nails and the force generated by hammering them into the ground caused several of them to come off their posts.
In hammering the dowels, a few of them split again. Solution? Same as before, use a staple gun to secure the crack and use glue to reinforce. It worked, because they didn’t split further as we hammered them into the ground.
Step 6 – Paint the Characters
This step takes the longest, by far. Everyone pitched in to help get the painting done, even the little guy (he “helped” with his own piece of scrap wood). Our approach is to use a single color – say, yellow – and paint all the pieces that require that color at once. Then we move on to another color. We’ll wrap up with mixed colors like orange, purple, pink and the like.
We save the black for last, because every character requires a black outline to look good. Plus the black is the trickiest one, because it’s hard to paint over if you mess up. The painting step took us through late Sunday afternoon, with many breaks and activities between the start and finish.
Step 7 – Assemble and Light!
Once they’re all painted, out on the lawn they go! It was getting dark, so we needed to work fast to get them up before it turned pitch black. We put them out on the lawn in the order that we wanted them to appear, and used a pointed stake to create the initial hole. Once the hole is in the ground, we then put the character in and hammer away!
More than once, we hit a rock and needed to start over. Then, of course, we realized we forgot a character inside. In fact we had forgotten to outline him in black! Oops. Sorry Yoshi.
After they were all in the ground, my husband plugged in the lights we got last year to light them all up. Then we all headed inside for dinner, and to finish painting that Yoshi. My husband stayed outside to spray the new characters with protective polyurethane, so they don’t get damaged due to rain and snow.
Once dinner and Yoshi were all set, we headed outside to finish up. We then took a fun video with the characters theme songs, to share with all of you!
The Video Of The Finished Product
Check it out! And be sure to share this video with anyone you know who might be a Nintendo fan. I bet they’d love it!
Since this is primarily a financial site, I can’t leave you without some financial lessons.
First, you can create striking outdoor displays yourself with a bit of creativity and some elbow grease. As I mentioned, each of these characters cost under $10. Making some each year helps keep the costs down, and keeps the project from getting too overwhelming.
Second, getting the family involved with a project like this is a fun way to spend a holiday weekend. Opting instead to work together as a team to create something amazing keeps kids of all ages entertained, and teaches them lessons in creativity and hard work as well.
And third, don’t give up on your dreams just because they’re too expensive. Find another way!
What do you think of Nintendo Christmas World? Let me know in the comments! And if you create your own outdoor DIY Christmas display, be sure to let me know. I’d love to see it!
Did you miss last years edition? Check it out here:
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