Origin of Christmas told in hundreds of nativity scenes

Htee Paw kneels while taking a photo of some of the 300 nativity scenes on display at First Christian Reformed Church. Glenn Ogilvie

Troy Shantz

More than 300 versions of the nativity story are coming together at First Christian Reformed Church for the 7th annual Nativity Walk.

The two-day event showcases a diverse collection of nativity sets from big to small, and traditional to unique.

The first family of Christmas — Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus — is reimagined in ceramic, tin, clay, fabric and Royal Doulton figurines.

Many are intricately hand-carved from various woods and one is made of Lego figures, said organizer Diane Plug.

“I love the art, I love symbolism, and I love the idea of a story like Christmas,” she said. “It’s expressed in so many different ways, which becomes especially evident when you see nativity sets from all different countries.”

As the sets reveal, the age-old story is open to interpretation, said Plug, with characters dressed in Scottish kilts and reinvented as a family of mice.

One nativity scene lives inside a snow globe; another perches atop a candle. Figures range from half an inch to three feet in height.

In one set, a cow rears on its hind legs to peer into the crib of Jesus. An Inuit set replaces the sheep with seals, and the figures of an Irish set are robed in emerald green.

One of the three kings in a Navajo nativity from Arizona bears a gift of corn, while another from Mexico has a pregnant Mary riding a donkey en route to Bethlehem, Plug said.

“We try to give each nativity set a bit of extra attention.”

The range of cultural signatures sends the message that Christmas is for everyone, regardless of nationality, Plug said.

The nativity sets are on loan from Sarnia-Lambton families and will be displayed throughout the church sanctuary entrance and hallways, she said.

Guests are also welcome to sample free apple cider and cookies served in the basement.

Last year, more than 500 people attended the event.

 

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: 7th annual Nativity Walk

WHERE: First Christian Reformed Church, 1105 Exmouth St.

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 6, 1 p.m. – 9 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

OTHER: Free admission; donations welcome in support of St. Vincent de Paul.