FAIRFIELD — The Nativity scene from El Salvador was no larger than a thumbnail and the one next to it was small enough to fit in an El Gallo matchbox.
The figures in the Nativity scene from the Philippines were made from the ashes that erupted from Mount Pinatubo and another nearby one from Haiti is made of stained glass.
A crèche from Bethlehem was created entirely from olive wood from the region’s olive trees, while one from Mississippi was entirely handcrafted clay sculpted by parishioners John and Dorothy Shinstock.
These are just a few of more than 300 Nativity scenes that have been gathered and are on display at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church through Thursday. The Nativity scenes come from all over the world – including countries such as Bali, Austria, Costa Rica, Uganda, Japan, India, Israel, Cameroon and Haiti.
Most have been handmade from materials ranging from stained glass, wood and porcelain to reeds, newsprint, soapstone, corn husks and clay.
The display is all a labor of love started by Bev Orlando 11 years ago and steadily, lovingly expanded by the parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and community members who have become entranced by the display.
“It is mind-boggling,” said Andrew Mason, who brought his family.
Now called the Bev Orlando Memorial Créche Exhibit, it is the church’s annual gift to the community, with new Nativity scenes being donated or loaned each year.
Bev’s husband, Dom Orlando, proudly said that regions from nearly every continent in the world are represented. He smiled when he said one of the organizers is working to get a Nativity scene from the small church in Antarctica, which the Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand, oversees.
The exhibit was started after an elderly woman in Palm Springs donated the bulk of her crèche collection to Bev Orlando after they met and became friends during the Olando’s trip to Palm Springs. Bev Orlando died in 2006.
One of the more unusual ones is a Nativity scene that Dom Orlando’s father rescued from a burned church and restored. Another was crafted from scraps of material, trash and dried leaves by a resident at the Yountville Veterans Home.
Some have been created by the parishioners themselves, such as the scene crafted by Angelina Adams, who enclosed it in a nicely decorated Ostrich egg.
One side of the display is devoted to several dozen angels collected by Helen Wiley, who also made a point of bringing food to the organizers every year before she died according to Fred Crosby.
The display is ever-growing, with members on the lookout for Nativity scenes that would make the event nicer than the year before.
“We try to go out and try to get ones from countries we don’t already have,” Crosby said. “Every time we go on a trip, we keep an eye out.”
All of the organizers say they enjoy putting on the display as much as the community who come to see it.
“It is a lot of work, but we enjoy doing it because people enjoy it so much,” Dom Orlando said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.
11th Annual Bev Orlando Memorial Créche Exhibit