This weekend, Ocean View Presbyterian Church will hold its annual Nativity Festival, inviting the community to enjoy “the reason for the season.”
“I just think it’s a wonderful gift to the community,” said Elsie Young, who started the event at the church after hearing about a similar event at a church in Pennsylvania.
This year, the festival will be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Punch and homemade cookies will be served, and the church’s choir will perform from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.
“It’s kind of a social time, a gathering of the neighbors in the community,” said Young. ‘‘It’s the start of the Advent — meaning the waiting, preparing for Christmas, the birth. We just think, with all the shopping, the cooking and the business, it’s a wonderful way to begin the season.”
Last year, the festival showcased more than 100 unique nativities, or crèches, from more than 20 countries, on display for the community to enjoy. This year, Young expects to have even more on display.
“Every one is unique. Some people just bought them when they travel. Now, everyone who travels in our church now buys a crèche.”
Young herself has eight crèches that she has collected over the years, which will all be on display on Saturday.
“One of mine is over 50 years old,” said Young. “There was a man where my sister lived in her little town. He would pay the kids after Christmas to go out in town to collect the Christmas trees when they were put out to throw away. He’d pay them 10 cents or a nickel. Then he made these stables out of these Christmas trees, hand-carved with a penknife.”
Young said each crèche has a wonderful story, many of family and faith.
“Each person who brought a crèche wrote a story about it, and we have it framed, so people can go and look at the crèche and read the story,” she explained.
“We have one that’s 75 years old. It was a family one. She says she can remember the day her dad — he was shopping and brought it home… Some of them, their families were German, so they have a Hummel one. A man who came last year and is bringing it again this year — he bought it when he was a little boy at the 5 and 10. He said, ‘I would buy one piece a year, and the 10 cent stickers are still on them.’
“Those are the kinds of stories,” Young noted. “One woman said when she was a little girl they moved out west. Her mom was a public health nurse who worked a lot of Indian reservations. She said the first time she’d ever seen a crèche was on one of those reservations. She recently met someone who had that crèche, and the lady gave it to her, from all those years ago. That’s the kind of stories there are — real, true family stories.”
Last year, more than 150 people attended the festival, and Young said she hopes more attend this Saturday.
“It’s a drawing together of the community to look at the crèches, to listen to the music and have that fellowship — to know we’re drawing people together to think about what advent is and what Christmas means... It’s a different activity from anything else around, an experience that begins with the preparation and waiting of what we feel is the real reason for Christmas.”
She added that, in years past, many people from the community have been touched by experiencing the festival firsthand, and she hopes that joy will continue.
“One lady wrote to us in her Christmas letter, ‘John, Jackie and I went to a crèche display at our neighbors’, the Quinns’, church. The season of love became quite real to us as we sang familiar songs, looked at an unbelievable number of different crèche sets, and spent time with church members as we enjoyed punch and homemade cookies. It’s amazing how such simple things when shared can bring warmth and love to an open heart.’
“That’s kind of what we hope, that people just take time out of the busy season to enjoy real meaning of Christmas — the Christ child.”
Ocean View Presbyterian Church is located at 67 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-8718.