Sunday, November 18th, 2018

S Shopper Stories


CBN CHRISTMAS VILLAGE

Bringing the spirit of European Christmas markets to Hampton Roads

by Rob Lauer


After filming at Germany’s historic Dreseden Christmas Market, CBN CEO and Documentary Film Producer <BR>Gordon Robertson was inspired to bring its Old World holiday charm to Hampton Roads

After filming at Germany’s historic Dreseden Christmas Market, CBN CEO and Documentary Film Producer
Gordon Robertson was inspired to bring its Old World holiday charm to Hampton Roads

Every year, over three million visitors flock to Dresden, Germany, to visit the city’s famous Christmas market. Throughout the Advent Season, the city’s town square, dominated by a huge Christmas tree, is filled with festively-decorated booths where local artisans, merchants, and bakers offer their holiday-themed wares. Bright Christmas lights, strung between the booths and outlining the roofs and windows of the city’s historic buildings, banish any wintery bleakness and create an atmosphere of warmth and good cheer. Bands of carolers and musicians stroll the streets, filling the air with the sound of music. Dresden’s churches, theaters and concert halls also open their doors, enticing passersby to come inside and enjoy the Christmas-themed entertainment that they offer. Jolly old Saint Nicholas is on hand, along with costumed characters from favorite fairy tales. And of course, the celebration would not be complete without a beautiful Nativity scene. To visit the Christmas markets in Dresden, or in any of the other European cities along the Danube River, is to leave the everyday world behind and enter a magical realm where the Christmas spirit reigns supreme. Is it any wonder that every December people from around the world make a holiday pilgrimage to the markets of Germany, Austria, and Hungary?

This December, local residents will not have to travel quite so far to partake of this Christmas magic. In fact, they needn’t go any further than the campus of The Christian Broadcasting Network and Regent University on Centerville Turnpike in Virginia Beach. For two weekends this December, the campus of CBN and Regent University will be transformed into CBN Christmas Village—an enchanting place that will bring the sights and sounds, the charm and the fun of the European Christmas markets to Hampton Roads.

“Because the people of Hampton Roads have been so supportive of our work, we wanted to give something back to the community,” CBN Vice President Michael Stonecypher explains. “Most people probably don’t realize that 90 percent of CBN’s charitable efforts are focused overseas. But we couldn’t do what we do in other parts of the world without the support of people here. Because we truly feel a part of the local community, we’re creating a special place that local families can visit for free and partake of the Christmas spirit.”

During his years at CBN, Michael has earned a reputation as a guy who loves Christmas. “It’s true,” he smiles unapologetically. “Every year at our house, my family goes all out with the decorations, both inside and outside. I’ve always been into Christmas. My dad was, too. A love for the holiday was handed down to me. But as much as I love the holiday, creating CBN Christmas Village takes the dedication and love of everyone here. The logistics alone are staggering. We’ve been in the planning stages since last December, and we’ve been working on the actual setup since the first of November.”


Michael Stonecypher—a self-described “Christmas guy”—is delighted to have played a role<BR> in bringing CBN Christmas Village to the local community.

Michael Stonecypher—a self-described “Christmas guy”—is delighted to have played a role
in bringing CBN Christmas Village to the local community.


Massive blueprints for CBN Christmas Village are spread across the large conference table in Michael’s office. As he looks over them, a childlike twinkle comes to his eyes and his ever-present smile broadens.

“The Christmas Marketplace will be on the Regent campus mall, covering the entire area,” he says as he points to one of the blueprints. “Around the mall, there will be 45 to 50 booths where vendors will sell gifts, crafts and food. Strings of lights will be draped between the booths. In addition, there will be thousands of lights outlining all the major buildings at CBN, including the steeple of our chapel. Everything has been designed to evoke the atmosphere found in German holiday markets. We will be open for a total of 30 hours, so we encourage interested vendors to visit our website for more information on how to be a part of this exciting event.”

The mall area will also feature free rides for children—including a Ferris wheel, Tea Cups, Airplanes and a Gold Rush Train.

A central focal point in the Village will be one of the largest Christmas trees in this region of Virginia. Standing 40 feet tall, this majestic tree, decked from top to bottom with lights, will be set up next to Santa’s Cottage.

“Santa’s Cottage is going to be something very special,” Michael says with a grin. “We have a very dedicated scenic department here at CBN—all talented professionals—and they are hard at work designing and building a large, beautiful cottage where visitors can meet Santa Claus and have their pictures taken with him.”

The talents and expertise of CBN’s scenic department are also going into the design of a nativity scene.

“I have seen the designs for our nativity scene and they are fabulous,” Michael enthuses. “Many nativity scenes feature either statutes or people posing in costume, but ours will be an actual show. There will be a cast of actors and actresses who will reenact the story of the first Christmas several times each hour, complete with lights, live animals, music and narration. They won’t be merely posing, but bringing the entire Nativity drama to life.”

“Costumed characters, including live Toy Soldiers, will stroll through the village, as will groups of professional carolers,” Michael continues. “CBN’s scenic department has also built a large gazebo for live open-air concerts. The Virginia Symphony Orchestra Brass Band will offer a free event on December 15—a wonderful show called ‘Holiday Brass,’ featuring Christmas music from the World War II era. Inside the CBN Chapel and the Regent University Theatre, we’ll offer live Christmas-themed performances by children’s choirs, ensembles, local dramatic artists and musical groups. In the university theatre, we will also offer free showings of favorite Christmas movies, such as the classic musical White Christmas and last year’s holiday hit, The Man Who Invented Christmas—the story of how Charles Dickens and his book A Christmas Carol revived the celebration of Christmas in the 1800s. As part of the Christmas Village, we will have a large 40-foot outdoor screen upon which we’ll show animated features for children. A collection of antique cars—including an antique fire truck—will be on display, all of them dressed out and decorated for the season. There will also be free horse-drawn carriage rides.”


Santa Claus will be on hand to welcome visitors to his cottage in CBN Christmas Village

Santa Claus will be on hand to welcome visitors to his cottage in CBN Christmas Village


“All in all, we will have something for everyone,” Michael declares. “And in the tradition of giving back to the community, we will have Military Appreciation Day on December 15, beginning with a 5K run sponsored by Helping the Home Front and a toy drive.”

Looking over the blueprints for CBN Christmas Village and listening to Michael describe in great detail its many attraction, one can’t help but be impressed by the scope of the project. But what is truly astounding is that idea for the village was originally conceived less than one year ago.

“The inspiration for CBN Christmas Village all came about because Gordon Robertson—CEO of CBN and the son of its founder, Pat Robertson,” Michael reveals. “Gordon is also the executive producer of many  documentary films. His latest film, Christmas: The Story Behind the Traditions, explores the Christian origins of not only explicitly religious traditions such as nativity scenes but also traditions that many people think of as being more secular, such Christmas trees, Santa Claus and even candy canes. Visitors to CBN Christmas Village will be able to see Gordon’s fascinating film. We’ll be offering free screenings in our theatre.”

Committed to showing viewers the places where many of the most cherished Christmas traditions were born, Gordon spent months shooting on locations around the world. Last December, filming took him to Dresden, where he fell in love with the historic city’s famous Christmas market.

Although it’s common for many modern Americans to complain about Christmas being too commercial, the tradition of Christmas shopping is over one thousand years old. Gordon discovered that it all began in the Christmas markets of Europe—one of the earliest being Vienna’s December market in 1294. Originally, shopkeepers held outdoor markets in December so that people could stock up on goods for the harsh, dark European winters. Because the markets were usually held near a city’s cathedral, they attracted  worshippers going to church for Advent and Christmas services. The purchasing of goods needed to survive winter soon merged with the desire of many to buy special food and gifts for family Christmas celebrations. The first official Christmas market was the Striezel Market in Dresden, Germany, which began in 1334. And while that Christmas market lasted just one day, the Dresden Christmas Market now lasts throughout the entire Advent season.


“Gordon called me one night
following the filming in Dresden
...he was so excited by the atmosphere
and the joyful feeling that he found there.
He said, ‘This has been
an absolutely fabulous trip...
I would love for CBN to do something
to bring this experience
to the people in Hampton Roads!’”

—Michael Stonecypher


“Gordon called me one night following the filming in Dresden,” Michael recalls, ‘and he was so excited by the atmosphere and the joyful feeling that he found there. He said, ‘This has been an absolutely fabulous trip for me, and I would love for CBN to do something to bring this experience to the people of Hampton Roads!’ We literally got that call last Christmas. At first, we wondered if we should wait a few years or commit ourselves immediately to bringing it to life in one year. We went back and forth, back and forth, and then—Boom! We decided yes, let’s do it. The logistics for an undertaking this big could be overwhelming, but we’re blessed here at CBN with an organization made up of dedicated, talented people who respond quickly and creatively.”

On Thursday, December 6, that dedication and creativity will be on full display when CBN Christmas Village opens to the public, completely free of charge.  Those who have dedicated themselves to bringing the spirit of the European Christmas markets to Hampton Roads hope that it will become an annual holiday tradition.

“From our hearts, what all of us here at CBN want is for everyone to know that we truly care about this community,” Michael concludes. “The Christmas season is a time for people to come together with family and friends, to show their love for one another. We’re offering them a place to do that; a place where the true meaning of the season is celebrated joyously; a place where they can create precious Christmas memories that will last a lifetime.” 



Free and open to the public, CBN Christmas Village <BR>is a perfect place for families to create lasting Christmas memories

Free and open to the public, CBN Christmas Village
is a perfect place for families to create lasting Christmas memories


Thursdays:   December 6 and 13
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Fridays:   December 7 and 14
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Saturdays:   December 8 and 15
12:00 pm – 9:00  pm

Located on the grounds of Regent University Mall




CBN Christmas Village

977 Centerville Turnpike
Virginia Beach, VA 23463


www.cbnchristmasvillage.com