O Holy Night
New in 2023 ... This year we will be featuring the Historic Cathedral Nativity Scene from St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria
Archbishop Joseph H. Schlarman, the third Bishop of Peoria (1930-1951), was proud of his German heritage and obtained this nativity during one of his European travels for St. Mary Cathedral in Peoria. The cathedral nativity scene was made in Munich, Germany, in 1930. A famous woodcarver there invented and patented the material from which he fashioned the figurines and the crib – a kind of wood-plaster. Details are as real as possible. For example, goat skin is used in the tiny goatskin water bags, the trappings are made of woven cloths with a touch of gold. There are only three such nativities in the world: one here at St. Mary's Cathedral, Peoria, one in Canada, and one in Europe. It has been displayed in the cathedral since 1933. We are thrilled to have this very beautiful creation on display at the festival this year.
Mexican Terra Cotta Nativity from The Betsy Christensen Nativity Collection
Elizabeth Anne (Betsy) Christensen waited until she was sure her parents had gone to sleep in the early morning hours of Christmas morning. She snuck up to the attic where she had hidden a crate she brought home from her study abroad trip to Europe. She used a crowbar to carefully pry the crate open, and she was sure she was going to wake someone despite her best efforts to be quiet.
In the crate, she removed a handcrafted Nativity she had purchased in Switzerland. She discreetly set it up, put a light on it and went to bed. The Nativity was a Christmas surprise for her mother, who didn’t have a Nativity in her house.
“She (Betsy) said that was one of her favorite Christmases because her mom, every time she looked at it, started crying. She liked it so much,” Christensen’s daughter, Jennie Turner-Brazel, said. That little Swiss creche began Christensen’s collection, which grew to over 1,000 creches.
Betsy passed away this year, 2023, and through the efforts of Shelly Crespo, the first Director of The Community Festival of Nativities and neighbor to Betsy in her last year, 60 scenes of her collection will be on display this year in Peoria at The Community Festival of Nativities.
We also look forward to seeing nativity scenes from Pekin artisan, Vic McDonald, and a 30-piece Hummel Nativity from the collection of Peggy Dewey, of Nauvoo, IL.
Diana Lage's Fontanini Collection will be back again to delight everyone. Her display of over 2,000 pieces will include 26 different sets of Fontanini Nativity scenes this year.