The Community Nativity Festival will again be a prominent event of Mena’s Christmas festivities. It will feature a display of family nativity sets, also called manger scenes, cribs (England), krippe (Germany), crèches (France), presepio (Italy), nacimiento (Spain), szopka (Poland), and a host of other names around the world.
Portraying the circumstances of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, the sets include figures of the Holy Family, with various combinations of angels, shepherds, magi (wise men), local visitors and attendant animals. Small personal displays like these have been a part of Christmas celebrations in private homes since the 1700’s.
Although a number of major churches and museums around the world have permanent collections, the Mena display is a bit different, as it is neither permanent nor based on the collection of a single individual, church, or institution. All the sets are lent by local families, of all faiths, who bring them in for a few days to share as a Christmas gift to their neighbors. Last year, the oldest participant was in her 90’s, the youngest only 3, with one family providing sets from 3 generations of collectors.
The exhibit includes sets from many different countries (some with the costumes, accessories and animals of the local culture). Some are mass-produced, others professionally hand-carved or hand-painted, still others lovingly crafted at home. They range in age from vintage pieces of the 1940’s to the newest collectibles, and in complexity from single pieces to a set with 40 separate figures. Materials include metal, stone, glass, crystal, porcelin, paper-mache, pottery, clay, resin, wood, wax, felt, fabric, and paper. The smallest figures are about ¼ inch tall, the largest about 2 feet tall. Last year the exhibit displayed over 275 sets.
This will be the 11th year for the festival, which will be held this year at the Fellowship Hall at First Presbyterian Church. The display, which features refreshments and seasonal music will be open to the public, admission is free, on Friday, December 5, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and later that evening after the parade. Also on Saturday, December 6, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and again on Saturday, December 13, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., before the KCS Christmas Train arrives.