People from around the world, including Haiti, Cuba, Holland, the Philippines, and Nigeria, have visited an exhibition of nativity sets at West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta.
Some of the more 600 nativity sets on display.
This is the 14th year the church has displayed nativity sets of all types—old and new, works of art by local artisans, humble handmade crafts, and unique sets from around the world.
The nativity show was the brainchild of Daniel and Rhonda Van Heyst, who saw a dozen or so nativity sets in the lobby of a dinner theater and envisioned a similar display in their church as a community outreach event, a nice counterpoint to the commercialism of Christmas. Little did they anticipate the growth of their idea.
In 1998, 300 visitors came to view 52 nativity sets. By 2010, the exhibition included 638 sets; last year’s event drew 2,600 visitors. People who wouldn’t ordinarily step into a church building are drawn in not only by the nativity sets but also by hourly music offerings in the sanctuary. They can also warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.
“Christ’s birth is the most amazing story and one that has lost focus in our world with all of the other decorations, sales, and food of Christmas,” says Rhonda Van Heyst. “Thousands of people come and visit us, and they are reminded again and again that Jesus is the center.”
West End CRC is situated at one end of Candy Cane Lane, ten city blocks of light displays and houses decorated with Santas, reindeer, sleighs, and plywood snowmen.
This year’s nativity show will be held on December 20-22.