Nativity scenes from around the world guide holiday focus


KAYSVILLE—Every nativity scene in the home of Virginia Hanney has a story.

Perhaps it’s where it came from. Perhaps it what it’s made out of or who made it. Perhaps it’s how it got where it is now.

But one story is common to all – each one of the hundreds of nativity scenes in Hanney’s collection is appreciated for the significance it brings to the Christmas season.

“I guess because I see so much commercialization of Christmas,” said Hanney on a recent Saturday, “I think it’s important – at least for my family – that they know the story behind Christmas.”

The word “believe” in large letters stands in the front yard of the home she and her husband, Val, share.

Hanney believes all the trappings of Christmas help tell the story of Christ’s birth and help people believe.

Besides nativity scenes like those she has collected, other traditions also support the story, she said. Santa represents the giving of gifts and sacrifice, stars represent the one that lit the night on the night of His birth, and candy canes represent shepherds’ crooks.

A native of Panguitch, Hanney has called Kaysville home for 40 years. She was first inspired by nativity scenes as a 10-year-old girl. That was the year she received the stand-up cardboard depiction of the birth of Christ given to all Primary girls in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

One of those scenes, a gift from a friend, is again in her home – this time surrounded by creches from around the world.

Hanney has 400 such scenes, though is exhibiting only 150 this year.

Some she purchased on trips, some were given to her by supportive friends, others her husband bought when he traveled for business.

There is one from Israel made with mother of pearl shells, another from Honduras made from tree bark, another from Haiti made from a steel drum.

There is one made with Origami in the style of the Japanese, another made of felted wool by grandmothers in Lesotho who are raising their grandchildren because their daughters died of AIDS.

One of the most unusual is a set from Liberia created from AK-47 shell casings, an example of turning a sword into a plowshare.

A set of nesting dolls from Russia tells the story of the nativity, as does a tiny bottle just an inch or two tall, with tiny figures inside.

Hanney’s most recent scene was purchased in New Mexico, made of Santo Domingo Pueblo pottery.

Most are handmade, including one she made of counted cross stitch during the years she cared for her mother.

Each showcases the styles of the countries they originate from: a set from Malawi has a giraffe and zebra in the stable instead of a cow and sheep, gifts borne by the wise men in a scene from Chili include corn, a gift typical in the country.

“All have some kind of memory of where it came from and why I got it,” said Hanney. 

And all help her remember and share the story that first touched her as a 10-year-old child.

“It’s an amazing story,” she said.


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