Nativity display

Nativity scenes at Maple Baptist Church will range from small to large. This year's organizers expect about 250 nativity scenes in this year's display.

Without the nativity, there would be no Christmas, according Martha Ann Johnson and her team of Baptist women, who are busy organizing and setting up a public display of all types of nativities.

This is the eighth year that they’ve collected nativity scenes from tiny to large, from handmade to expensive Lenox china and even from other countries.

“They’re made out of almost every imaginable material, about anything you can think of from wheat, straw or copper and wood and bronze,” Johnson said. “Of course ceramic, and some of them are just the holy family and some have animals, shepherds, wise men, everything…It’s just a big variety.”

This year’s display will be in the Maple Baptist Church fellowship hall Dec. 6, 2 p.m.-8 p.m., Dec. 7, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Dec. 8, noon to 4 p.m.

Papa John’s Pizza will be sold for $2 a slice on Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. and BBQ plates to go will be sold Sunday from noon-1 p.m.

Although there is no place in eat in the fellowship hall, people can take their BBQ outside to eat, if they choose.

Also outside will be a living nativity scene during the display on Friday and Sunday, but not on Saturday when the scene will be open with costumes for people to wear to have their pictures taken. Johnson says these make great keepsakes and can even be used on personal Christmas cards.

Each year, the ladies focus on one person’s nativity collection. This year’s featured owner will be Fran Long, a retired nurse, who will provide about two-dozen nativity scenes.

The Maple ladies decided to start their Christmas tradition after traveling to Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner for that group’s annual nativity collection where they were truly impressed with the variety and quality of the scenes, but decided they could do the same thing.

Mepkin Abbey had about 100 nativities when the Conway ladies visited, but Maple Baptist Church started out with about 200.

This year, as was the case the past two or three years, the Maple display will include about 250 nativities, according to Johnson.

This year’s theme is The Music of Christmas, so there will be musical instruments placed around the fellowship hall.

They’ve had nativities from South American countries, one of those was made of straw, and one from Africa made out from banana fibers. They have had one so tiny it fit into a real acorn shell.

“You can see the teeny tiny people, Mary and Joseph and the baby in it. It is so tiny,” Johnson said, adding that they once had one inside a real eggshell.

There will also be drawings and painted scenes, along with some created using various types of needlework.

There will also be some that will appeal to children, and, of course, there will be at least one of Charlie Brown with his pitiful, but much-loved tree.

The Maple ladies welcome supervised children, pointing out that some of the nativity scenes are quite valuable and they must carefully protect them. They recommend that parents carry very small children or hold their hands and watch them carefully.

This year’s display will have a slightly different travel pattern than past year’s displays.

Instead of entering through the front door, visitors will enter through the breezeway where they plan to have a large scene set up. It won’t be life size, Johnson said, but about half of that.

The plan is to make people feel like they’ve been transported to Bethlehem. Johnson is especially excited that Beth Sarvis will be creating this scene.

“I’ve never known her to do anything that isn’t outstanding,” she said.

Although there is no charge to view the nativity collection, there will be a donation box. All money from the donations and the sale of food will go toward “finishing off” the church’s newest fellowship hall that is about twice as big as the current fellowship hall.

Johnson said the turnout for the 2018 nativity display was disappointing because it rained everyday, but, depending on the weather, they expect to help several hundred people get their Christmas season off on the right foot this year.

“It’s different,” Johnson said. “If you like pretty things, interesting things, it’s interesting to see.”

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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