Local woman's 300 nativities bring Christmas spirit to BYU

Local woman's 300 nativities bring Christmas spirit to BYU

(BYU Store)

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PROVO — The BYU Store has a new display with more than 300 nativities from around the world, and many are taking a break from their holiday shopping to admire these nativities of all shapes and sizes.

The new "Nativities from Around the World" display in the BYU Store includes over 300 nativities from all different places and cultures. These are part of a private collection belonging to Orem resident Betsy Christensen, who owns over 1,000 unique nativities.

There are nativities made of materials such as fabrics, horseshoe nails, and recycled Coke cans. They come from places and cultures from all over the world including Thailand, the Amazon, Sri Lanka, Guam, Armenia and Botswana. One was made by Kenyan children out of mud and dung, and another is so tiny it fits on the head of a pin.

As impressive as this expansive exhibit is, it only includes about one-third of Christensen's collection.

She said she has always loved nativities. Her collection originally began when she started compiling her favorite nativity poetry. Soon, she began collecting the physical nativities as she traveled the world.

She first put her collection on display in 1983 in Michigan as a gift to the community. She later paired her nativity poetry with pictures of her collection in her book, “IN MANGER LOWLY: The Worldwide Christmas Nativity in Créche Art, Carols and Poetry.”

Now, her daughter Jennie Brazel is paying tribute to her by putting the nativities in displays, like the one currently at the BYU Store. She said the collection creates a “connection across the countries” as visitors realize there are people all around the world who believe the same things they do.

"It's always a good feeling,” Brazel said. “It's kind of a nice way to counteract all the Santa Claus barrage of things hitting people. We've found a lot of people in all these exhibits who just really like to start off the season... with something that reflects what we're really supposed to be thinking about."

She said that many people haven’t seen a nativity from outside their traditional culture. She encouraged exhibit visitors to notice the different gifts that the kings carry in their hands, the different animals that are included, and the unique art styles.

BYU Store Marketing Director JR Ricks said there have been about a thousand people coming to see the exhibit each day since they started.

"I thought I wanted to do a promotion for Christmas, but I didn't want it to always be sales of a product,” Ricks said. “I want it to still be a Christ-centered Christmas in some way."

The exhibit is available to the public and is suitable for all ages. Ricks recommends that visitors plan to spend about 30 minutes to be able to see everything.

The BYU Store will be hosting the display until Jan. 4.

Katie Embley is a BYU student, studying News Media and Spanish. Contact her at katie.sue.embley@gmail.com


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