How many different ways could an artist depict the Nativity? The answer may surprise you.
Stettler Alliance Church held its annual Nativity Exhibit from Dec. 18 to 20, welcoming residents to view a total of 117 different depictions of Christ’s birth in miniature form, with no charge for admission.
The scenes came in various materials — plaster, ceramics, wood, fabric, cardboard, even chocolate — from across the decades and throughout the world.
“There’s just an incredible number of them out there,” said Betty Stokoe. “Once they’re seeing them, people are pretty amazed at the variety and the different concepts behind them.”
Stokoe, the church’s office administrator, said it was the eighth year the church has presented the display, but added the turnout had been somewhat disappointing. About 60 people came to see the display over three days. In comparison, more than 100 came through last year.
“I think this is the prettiest we ever had,” Stokoe added, noting that the exhibit changes every year with new additions.
The displays were set up in the church lobby and in the sanctuary, where they were spread across the stage, with a light display glowing above.
Some of the nativity scenes dated back as far as the 1950s, coming from countries as far apart as Belize, the Congo and Ukraine.
Small cards next to some displays gave information on their origin and background.
Some were family heirlooms, handed down over generations; others were recently purchased at gift shops or second-hand stores.
Stokoe estimated that about half of the displays have been permanently donated to the church, while the rest are on loan and will be returned to their owners.
She said she encourages church members to contribute handmade sets, noting that one year, a boy constructed a nativity scene out of Lego blocks and added it to the display.
Some of the sets depict Mary, Joseph, Jesus and their guests in non-human form, like sets featuring black bears and penguins. There was also a set featuring Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters; Stokoe said these three sets were especially popular with kids.
Stokoe served as the co-ordinator for the display, which was set up by the ladies of the church. Refreshments were available, and puzzles and other activities were offered for kids.
The exhibit closed on Saturday afternoon and organizers were on hand to clear the displays quickly, making the way clear for the next morning’s Sunday service.