This glass Joy Nativity is one of 250 crèches in Linda Miller’s collection that she has on display in a room in her Wainwright home.

The house of many crèches

By  Chris Miller, Canadian Catholic News
  • December 21, 2013

WAINWRIGHT, ALTA. - While some people have an exercise or a theatre room in their homes, Linda Miller has a special room in her Wainwright home dedicated to her vast and growing collection of crèches.

“In my house, my husband put shelves all around the room, about five rows of shelves. I have them displayed all year round,” Miller said.

“They are displayed quite nicely and not just one on top of the other. Guests can go in and look at them.”

The manger scene, commonly referred to as a crèche, depicts the birth of Jesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Miller’s Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus,

His mother Mary, and Joseph. Also among her collection are shepherds, the Magi, angels and various animals — donkeys, sheep, oxen and camels — displayed near the manger in a barn.
Miller began her collection of Nativity sets more than 15 years ago when her son bought her collectible Nativity scene figurines for Christmas.

Immediately her interest grew. Over the years she kept adding another set or two, buying a nice, unique set for each of her children and grandchildren.

By Christmas 2010 she had more than 160 sets in her collection. Now there are about 250 crèches that have come from Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Montreal and Quebec City, as well as faraway places such as Hawaii, Alaska, Africa, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

“A lot of mine I buy after Christmas when they go on sale for half price. A set might be selling for $400, but I wouldn’t pay $400. I might pay half that,” said Miller. “They sell at various prices. One little one that I have, it’s not even a quarter-inch tall, made out of metal, and it was only $9.95.”

Since distinctive Nativity scenes and traditions have been created worldwide, Miller’s family and friends started bringing the Nativity sets back from their vacations all over the world.

“I have one that is a Nativity ornament, but it didn’t have the barn and the crèche with it. So my husband made me a barn out of shingles from my dad’s old granary. It turns out to be my favourite.”

The ornaments are made from a variety of materials, including wood, glass, sand, stained glass, metal, tin, plastic, fabric, paper, leather, beeswax and even olive tree wood from the Holy Land.

Some are fibre optic or windup, while others are moving, inflatable or musical. She has sets made by Bradford Exchange, Royal Doulton or handcrafted by Jim Shore, Timothy Schnatz and Joan Baker.

Starting in 2009, she also displayed her collection as part of a fundraiser for Wainwright’s Blessed Sacrament parish. Her collection was on display Dec. 20-22.

“I take them to the parish hall. This will be my fifth year. Usually I take them the week before Christmas,” said Miller, noting that it feels good to allow others to view the beauty of the Nativity and its story, and, most importantly, put a little Christ back in Christmas.

“I started the tradition too, if someone passes away, like a brother or a relative, then I’d buy one in their memory. My aunt collected angels, so I have an angel crèche with a little placard showing it’s in her memory,” she said.

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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