We all have that favorite holiday decoration that brings back fond memories. For my family, it is our treasured Christmas village. My husband had one growing up, and when our children were young we started our own Christmas village. We could afford to purchase only one piece at a time, often waiting until after Christmas to find items on clearance to add to our collection. Adding to the village became a fun tradition. While it once fit on a bookshelf, it currently fills half the room, and a new generation of grandchildren now enjoys our holiday decoration.

The Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center has its own whimsical holiday decoration that has quickly become a tradition many visitors enjoy. In 2020, a set of unique reindeer, complete with Santa and his sleigh, were donated to the hotel. I don’t know if the reindeer came with names, but some of the traditional names for Santa’s reindeer seem to fit them well. The reindeer with the tutu and ballet slippers could easily be named Dancer. I would name the one with wings on its back Cupid. I did not find one with a red nose, but maybe Rudolph is the one all dressed in red. Perhaps you’ll be able to match up additional names to the reindeer if you visit the Village during the holidays.

Room for Reindeer at the Inn by Jolene Clark—A plastic Christmas reindeer decoration

What truly makes the reindeer special is the story behind the gift. The reindeer originally belonged to Barbara Van Benschoten and her husband Dick Van Benschoten. Barbara purchased the reindeer in Louisiana and displayed them on the couple’s dining room table every year for their friends to enjoy. When Barbara passed away in 2020, Dick said he “couldn’t imagine leaving the unique, adorable reindeer packed away under the stairs when they could be enjoyed by so many.”

A New Tradition

The family lived just a short walk from Unity Village, so they contacted the hotel to see if Unity would accept the donation, and a new tradition was born. Dick hoped that Barbara’s favorite Christmas decorations would bring joy to people from all over the world who visit Unity Village during the holidays. Dick used to come with friends to see them each holiday season, although he made his transition in January 2022, a few days after his annual visit.

The reindeer will be on display on the fireplace mantle in the hotel lobby after Thanksgiving until January. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, grab some coffee or hot chocolate from the Fillmore Café and then cross the street to spend some time in front of the hotel fireplace enjoying the reindeer. May they bring all the hotel’s guests as much joy as they brought the Van Benschoten family.

For more information about the Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center, call 816-347-5537.

About the Author

Jolene Clark is the archives manager at Unity World Headquarters. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri. To arrange to visit the archives at Unity Village, contact Clark at [email protected].

Jolene Clark


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