The holidays are a time for shopping, cooking, wrapping and, well, more shopping.
Centenary United Methodist Church, 245 N. Fourth St., aims to provide a bit of peace in this season of hustle and bustle with its 12th-annual Festival of the Nativities.
The festival, which is organized by Centenary church members, is the festive display of more than 300 nativity sets or Nativity-related art.
Connie Hedel, festival organizer, calls the atmosphere at the festival "restful."
As you walk in, she explains, the lights are out and the Christmas bulbs are aglow. The only sound is the quiet jingle of holiday music. Festivalgoers can sip on hot spiced apple cider as they wander through the Nativity displays, each of which is unique.
"They're not the same," Hedel says.
"They're made from every media you can think of - coal, brass, pewter, hay :"
Hedel says that local art students might find the Nativity sets interesting simply because of the diverse types of materials used to make them.
Each nativity scene at the festival is either donated or lent to the church by community members. Nancy Atchley, another festival organizer, displays about 80 of her own Nativities each year.
Atchley, who also planned the first Festival of the Nativities, collects the sets throughout her travels. While it's hard for her to choose a favorite, she's partial to a pottery Nativity she picked up at the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin. She also likes the simple, faceless Nativities formed from straw because anyone can project their own feelings or beliefs onto the figures. And then there's the mysterious Nativity scenes from Mexico, which usually include an unidentified woman.
Usually, Atchley explains, Nativity scenes have a Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, animals and sometimes angels. But those made in Mexico have an extra woman. Atchley doesn't know who she is, but she intends on doing some research to find out.
The Festival of the Nativities also features holiday ornaments, pictures, fabric wall hangings and the like. There are also several handcrafted items for sale at the festival gift shop. There, visitors can satisfy their inner shopaholic with baked goods, unique wall hangings, handmade clothing, felt ornaments and other holiday decorations. Proceeds from gift shop sales benefit the church and local charities, Hedel says.
At Centenary United Methodist Church, some members work year-round to plan for the Festival of Nativities. They even set up tables about a month in advance and begin planning displays even sooner.
This year, the festival will showcase a large oil painting of the Nativity scene. Hedel rescued it from church rummage sale and plans to make it the centerpiece of this year's festival.
Hedel now owns about 20 Nativities, and she says she loves seeing what other members of the community contribute.
But, she jokingly admits, "I'm partial to my own."