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Residents loan nativity sets to create unique Christmas show

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Phil Egan

At the old St. Joseph’s Hospital where I was born the white-robed Sisters of St. Joseph would erect a large nativity scene every Christmas in the hospital chapel.

It depicted shepherds, animals, angels, wise men, and Mary and Joseph huddling under an expansive manger roof.

But until Christmas Day, one piece was missing. The nuns kept the Infant Jesus in a chapel drawer until the sacred day arrived.

After St. Joseph’s was eventually stripped of its religious trappings to become the nucleus of the new Bluewater Health complex, the nearly 100-year-old nativity scene was donated to Vision Nursing and Rest Home.

Earlier this month, thousands of residents revisited that nativity scene — together with more than 350 others — at the First Christian Reformed Church’s ‘Nativity Walk.’

The 6th annual show offers a free meander past a captivating collection of nativity scenes and depictions of the Holy Family from every continent on earth.

The two-day show, accompanied by live musicians, isn’t a touring event. It’s assembled from nativity scene loaned to it by people from across the city, organizer Diane Plug explained.

The scenes are wonderfully varied, from figurines in Royal Doulton to ceramic, tin, clay and fabric. Many are intricately hand-carved from various woods, including a pair of spectacular driftwood carvings of the Holy Family.

One nativity scene occurs within a snow globe; another is perched atop a candle. The figures range in size from half an inch to three feet.

In one, a cow rears on its hind legs to peer into Jesus’ crib. An Inuit set features a shepherd tending a seal instead of sheep, while the figures of an Irish set are robed in emerald green.

A Navajo set crafted in Arizona has one of the kings bearing a gift of corn.

St. Francis of Assisi, inspired by a journey to the Holy Land, created the first known nativity scene. That was in 1223 – almost 800 years ago – and nativity scenes have been part of the Christian Christmas tradition ever since.

Sarnia’s Redeemer Lutheran Church has hosted a live outdoor nativity scene for four decades, which features parishioners who take turns playing the roles of Mary, Joseph, shepherds and the Three Wise Men surrounded by live animals.

This year’s event takes place Friday, Dec. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 22, starting at 6 p.m. Hot chocolate and carol signing (7:30 p.m.) are available to warm the body and soul.

Got an interesting tale? Contact Phil Egan at [email protected]


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