Figures bringing gifts to the baby Jesus in this nativity scene from Kenya, often referred to as the Three Kings or Three Wise Men, are portrayed as women. A display of nativity scenes from around the world was donated recently to the Somesville Union Meeting House and will be featured at a community lunch on Dec. 17. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

A worldwide Christmas

MOUNT DESERT — The Christmas season tradition of displaying a nativity scene, or crèche, is popular in Christian communities around the world. Figures of Mary, Joseph, animals and sometimes visiting kings or wise men are grouped around a baby Jesus in a manger. Sometimes there’s a barn or stable behind them and an angel or a bright star hovering above.

Somesville Union Meeting House members Dorothy Hartson, left, and Betty Crawford set up a display of nativity scenes from around the world that recently were donated to the church. The display will be featured at a community lunch set for Dec. 17. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

An extensive collection of crèches from dozens of countries is on display at the Somesville Union Meeting House. A special community lunch set for Sunday, Dec. 17, at noon will feature the collection. Lunch is free; donations will support an upcoming mission trip to Haiti.

The collection was donated by summer resident Rebecca Madeira.

Each scene is labeled with its country of origin. Some contain dozens of pieces, such as a crèche from Mexico made mostly of corn husks that includes a choir of angels.

The smallest piece in the collection is a whole nativity scene from El Salvador painted on a single large seed. Another, made in Jerusalem, is carved from a single piece of hardwood and depicts Mary and Joseph standing over the baby.

A crèche from Kazakhstan is made of wool and features a yurt rather than a stable. In one from Columbia, the whole nativity scene takes place aboard a banana boat. And in one from Kenya, the dignitaries from afar bearing gifts are women.

Madeira began collecting them in 1999 when she was vice president for worldwide public affairs for PepsiCo.

“My job involved a lot of travel, so I was gone for weeks at a time, especially at year end,” she said. “To help our young son, Jake, understand a bit about where I had been, I would bring him a nativity set from the region. If I didn’t have time to shop for a nativity scene, I would seek out an importer from the country I visited and have it sent to our home. I kept it up for about 15 years until I ran out of room to display all of the pieces.”

At one point, the collection was displayed in the United Nations building as part of a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders.

Madeira asked the Rev. Victor Stanley, pastor in Somesville, if he had any thoughts on how she could share the collection with more people. She decided to donate it to the church.

Church members Dorothy Hartson and Betty Crawford worked this week to set up a display in the parish hall, where Sunday’s luncheon will be held.


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.