Archive for Monday, December 22, 2003

Nativity set collection reflects Christmas spirit

December 22, 2003

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— Three wise men circle a manger and turn reverently toward an illuminated baby Jesus while joyous Christmas music plays.

Joan Kogler proudly points out her Nativity music box, one of the centerpieces of her extensive collection of Nativity sets -- 215 displays to be exact, including 78 Nativity ornaments that hang on her Christmas tree, a Nativity puzzle and domino set, and three Nativity afghans that drape her living room furniture.

Kogler has been collecting Nativity sets for 10 years, ever since one of her daughters told her to "start collecting something so we know what to get you for Christmas."

"Now I get Nativity sets all year," Kogler said. "Every time friends and relatives go on vacations, they'll find a new one to bring back for me."

What started Kogler's Nativity fever? Blame it on the Sears Christmas catalog.

"I was looking through the catalog and saw this Nativity set made from Italian crystal that I really wanted, but it cost a lot more than I wanted to spend," she said. "That was what got me thinking that Nativity sets might be something I would have fun collecting. I guess I've run away with it since."

That may be an understatement.

During the Christmas season, nearly every square inch of her living room and basement is covered with baby Jesuses, Mother Marys, Josephs, wise men and multitudes of sheep, camels and donkeys.

Many sets consist of individual and fragile pieces that Kogler wraps in plastic bags and stores in plastic containers during the rest of the year.

Joan Kogler peers over a Nativity scene she received from her
sister. For the past 10 years, the Saline County woman has been
collecting the scenes and now has 215 sets and ornaments that she
displays in her home during the holiday season.

Joan Kogler peers over a Nativity scene she received from her sister. For the past 10 years, the Saline County woman has been collecting the scenes and now has 215 sets and ornaments that she displays in her home during the holiday season.

Kogler said her husband tolerates her obsession and even volunteers to drag the plastic containers into the house every Thanksgiving -- as long as he doesn't have to unpack or help set them up.

This is fine with Kogler, who likes to create different arrangements every year, often with the help of her eight grandchildren and three daughters, all of whom live out of state but usually visit during the Christmas season.

"A lot of these Nativity sets are freestanding, and you can place them in any order you want or hang them at different places on the tree," she said.

"I never put things out the same way twice. Unless I take a picture, I can't remember where they were from year to year."

Kogler said she continually was surprised by how many varieties of Nativity sets are available.

This carved Russian Santa's open robe displays a detailed Nativity
painting of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

This carved Russian Santa's open robe displays a detailed Nativity painting of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Just when she thinks she has seen everything, she will run across something unique, like a Nativity set from Mexico that rests inside a hollowed gourd or a Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus made from yucca plants from the American Southwest.

Kogler's first Nativity set, given to her by her mother-in-law, is made entirely from wood bark and logs.

Another Nativity is made completely from straw, created by Kansas wheat-weaving artist Donna Morgenstern.

An A-frame wooden Nativity was carved by a shop teacher from Manhattan.

Other Nativity scenes and sets are made from porcelain, glass, marble and stone.

To Kogler, sharing her Nativity sets with others is what the Christmas spirit is all about.

"Christmas is the time of Christ's birth, when people are supposed to get together and celebrate," she said. "Putting up these Nativity sets gets me into the spirit of Christmas a lot more than gifts and gift-giving do."

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