Nativity Festival aims to get families in the holiday spirit

It seemed an inauspicious birth,
another mouth to feed on earth.
A stable in a crowded town,
the only lodging to be found.

— John McCullagh

Many Christian families display a crèche or nativity every Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus. Most families have passed their crèches down from generation to generation, each with a unique story. And, for its fourth year, the Ocean View Presbyterian Church hopes to share those stories with the community.

“I think people can visit, share stories about their crèches and talk to people they might not know. It’s a very warm gathering and fits the bigger picture of the season,” said Elsie Young, who organizes the event.

Young first heard of a nativity festival after her sister visited one in Pennsylvania.

“She was so excited and invigorated, and said, ‘You should do it at your church.’”

And Young did. Last year, the festival showcased 125 crèches from all over the world.

“We have them set up around the perimeter of the room, and with each crèche there’s the story of the crèche,” she explained. “You read and find out how it was collected, if it came from a trip or if it was a gift.”

This year, the Nativity Festival will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the community.

Last year, there was a crèche that a woman and her young children displayed during the years they lived on a houseboat.

“I don’t think the pieces were more than a half-inch tall. That was their only crèche, because they didn’t have room to store anything bigger,” she said. “There was a man whose dad had a shoe store next to the 5-and-10, and he would save his money, and when he got enough money, he would go and buy a piece for his nativity scene. Some of them still had the 10-cent marker on them. He collected them over the years, and last year he brought them.”

During the program, guests can enjoy punch and cookies provided by the church, as well as Christmas carols sung by the church choir.

“We look at this as our church’s gift to the community, so we don’t take any contributions,” said Young.

The community’s response to the festival over the last few years has been extremely positive, she added.

“It has been a very positive response. There was one woman whose brother collects crèches, and she got on her cell phone and called him to come see it. Another told me, ‘I wouldn’t miss it. It’s just part of my Christmas,’” said Young. “It’s the whole Christmas season in the beginning of Advent. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s not something you see every day, so I think it’s special.”

Young said she hopes the festival will help the community get into the Christmas spirit and remember the real reason for the season.

“One woman wrote to us, ‘This Season of Love became quite real to us as we sang familiar Christmas songs, looked at an unbelievable number of different crèche sets, and spent time with church members. It is amazing how such simple things when shared can bring warmth and love to an open heart.’ I hope everyone will feel that way when they leave.’”

Ocean View Presbyterian Church is located at 67 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-8718.