Church’s Nativity Festival to share collections and stories
The Ocean View Presbyterian Church is offering a unique way to celebrate the holiday season, with their first annual Nativity Festival.
The free festival, which will be held on Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., was spearheaded by parishioner Elsie Young, who said she wanted to do something different for the church’s Christmas celebrations.
“I went to the worship committee, and I said, ‘We have to do something,’” explained Young. “You know, churches are always having dinners and stuff like that, but they don’t have a lot of things where you can just share the spiritual story of it.”
The Nativity Festival will have on display crèches, or Nativity displays, belonging to parishioners and other members of the community, along with a small card explaining the story behind each one.
“I heard of this first where my sister lives. Theirs has been going for 25 years or something like that. And they even have people in the community that bring in crèches now. Theirs goes over two days,” said Young. “I thought, ‘We can’t start out like that, but we can start out minimal and let it grow.’ We want it to become an annual thing, and what happens the first year determines how we go about it another year.”
Young said her church had held its own little Nativity Festival two Christmases ago, and it was quite a success.
“We always have a Christmas dinner the first Friday in December, and I said to them, ‘Let’s try something different. Let’s everybody bring their crèches.’ The day we did it for ourselves, they had a week’s notice, and I think we had 45,” she recalled. “The smallest one was an egg, and then there was a little box and the little figures all stay in the box… Those were the two smallest ones.”
Young said that the two oldest crèches on display were one that was 75 years old, and her own, which was 50 years old.
“They were from everywhere – one from Colombia, two from the Holy Land, one from the Galapagos Islands, one from an Indian reservation… Just from everywhere. I had them write a little 3-by-5 card to tell about them so you would get a little bit of history.”
Young said that the crèches will also give attendees the chance to look at the differences between cultures and how they see the Nativity.
“It’s interesting to see how each culture creates a Nativity that is distinctive to their own homeland. The one from the Indian reservation, the figures looked like Indians. The one that came from the Galapagos were natives,” she said. “I just think that that was rather interesting to see how each culture makes their Nativity be them, not what we think of.”
Young herself has a collection of crèches, each with its own unique story, including that one that is more than 50 years old.
“It’s shaped like a barn. Where my sister lives, it is a very ethnic community. And one of the men – they called him ‘Uncle’ – he would pay the neighborhood kids 50 cents to go out after Christmas and bring in the trees that were left for the trash. They would bring the trees to him, and then he would hand carve the pieces and sell them for $25.”
Young said she always places her crèche low to the ground, so that her children and grandchildren can play with them and enjoy them.
“Back then, $25 was a lot, and I couldn’t afford the figures. I went to a department store and bought them there. But the thing about that was that the kids all played with it when they came. They touched it. They moved it around. It’s been out every Christmas.”
Young also owns a crèche carved by her brother-in-law for her mother-in-law, the mother of her husband, George. She also has one made of colored glass, as well as a cactus nativity.
“It’s just fantastic what people do, and they’re such good ideas.”
One of her most prized nativity pieces is a collection of Wise Men she brought home from a recent trip to Mexico.
“You know how our Wise Men come on camels? Well, in Mexico, they don’t come on camels. One comes on a camel. One comes on a horse, and one comes on an elephant. And, when you go to their home, it’s just their Nativity scene,” she explained. “I said, ‘George, I’m not coming home without one of those.’”
Young said that, with the help of the hotel staff, she and her husband scoured various markets looking for the Wise Men.
“We went to this place – it was as big as our house, and it had every kind of Mexican art you could think of. Lots of crèches but no Wise Men! We went six places, found lots of crèches, but no Wise Men… Oh, we looked everywhere.”
Young said that a girl working in the hotel office called her one day to say that the Wise Men are made in her home of Puebla and that she would help Young get them.
“I said, ‘How are we going to get them? Will they FedEx them?’ She said, ‘No, mi papa is coming to visit us on the weekend and he will hand-carry it.’ Twenty-four hours on a bus,” she said. “And when he got there… Oh, everybody was coming into the office. People wanted to come to our room to see it, because it’s expensive and a lot of the Mexican people don’t have the whole thing.”
Young said that her stories are just a sampling of the Nativity stories that will be at the festival.
“Those are my stories. One lady had a story, when friends of theirs got married gave them one, and it’s like wrought ironwork.”
To try to make the festival more community-oriented, the Ocean View Presbyterian Church has reached out to other area churches and community members, asking if they would share their Nativities and stories for the day.
“We can start out small and let it grow. It’s like a gift to the community. They don’t have to pay for it. They can just come and stay however long they want to and enjoy.”
On the day of the festival, Nativities will line the hall, with each crèche’s story framed next to it.
“We’ll probably have cookies and punch, and the choir will probably sing some songs,” she added.
Young said she has no idea how many people she will attend but that she hopes people will feel moved to stop in and enjoy the unique spiritual event.
“Somebody said to me, ‘Well, Elsie, how many do you expect?’ I said, ‘200!’ I don’t know. I have no idea,” she said. “I hope we draw in a real ecumenical group.”
Young said that she hopes everyone in the community will be able to take a break and visit the festival to share in the beauty and stories the festival will offer.
“Everybody’s excited about it. We have a small congregation, but we have a very mission-minded congregation. And we have a very God-centered congregation, and I think that to share this with the community… if we can touch people’s lives with a moment of peace and beauty, isn’t that beautiful?”
The Ocean View Presbyterian Church is located at 67 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, or to inquire about displaying your own crèche, call (302) 539-3455.