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Ohio church features 300 Nativity scenes at Christmas festival

Nativity scene
One of around 300 Nativity sets on display at St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio, as part of a festival that began on Nov. 26, 2022, and is slated to end on Dec. 18, 2022. |

A church in Ohio is hosting a weekslong festival that features around 300 different Nativity scenes, as well as other artwork, crafts, food and music.

The HeART Gallery, an artistic outreach ministry of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Toledo, is hosting the festival, which began on Saturday and will run through Dec. 18.

HeART Gallery Director Kate Philabaum told The Christian Post that the approximately 300 Nativity scenes come from both members of the congregations and local resident collectors.

Philabaum noted that the church event involves the nativities being paired with “themed, decorated Christmas trees,” 30 in number, and also 20 themed “table-scapes.”

“We have partnered with two estate companies and taken in items that are destined for the landfill after a sale. This often includes pre-lit Christmas trees that no longer work and outdated ornaments,” Philabaum said.

“We undertake the task to refurbish and repurpose these materials as much as possible, as stewards of the environment. About 50% of our decorated trees and table items have been salvaged in this way.”

This is the fourth year that the church is hosting the festival, with each year’s event featuring an art exhibit alongside the nativities, as well as concerts on the opening and closing days.

On Saturday, the opening concert was performed by the Asteria String Quartet, an all-female string group and harpsichord. The closing concert will feature the Academy Brass Quintet with organ and include carol singing.

“This year our artist-in-residence is Michelle Arnold Paine,” Philabaum explained. “Her exhibit ‘Painting Mary’ focuses on contemporary renderings of Mary.”

“Ms. Paine is commissioned to do a painting for the church on the theme of ‘Jesse Tree’ and will paint live on-stage on Friday evenings in December.”

There will be craft opportunities at the festival, such as a crafts event in which people will be able to create manger scene-inspired ornaments for children.

When asked by CP what she hoped people took away from the event, Philabaum responded that she hoped “people leave feeling that they've been engaged in conversation, art and music as a way to remind them of the blessings of the season and the birth of Christ.”

According to the Guinness World Records, the record for most Nativity sets displayed belongs to Oasis Church of Pembroke Pines, Florida, which had 2,150 unique sets displayed on Dec. 11, 2010.

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