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Patty Nichols creche from Ecuador

Described as one of downtown Toledo’s most diverse displays, the “Nativity Festival” at HeART Gallery in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, will begin its three-day run on Thursday, December 21. Guests will experience the meaning of Christmas in a gallery filled with decorated trees and more than one hundred crèches from around the world, on loan from the University of Dayton. Individual collectors have also loaned their nativities for a display that boasts many diverse materials, colors and cultural flavors. Viewing the displays by candlelight with live music re-creates the 1223 atmosphere when Catholic saint, St. Francis of Assisi felt inspired to recreate the Nativity scene after visiting the Holy Land. His idea spread quickly through the Christian world.

Mary, Joseph and infant Jesus are represented as the main characters of the creche; however many sets include other figures such as angels, shepherds, animals and more. The HeART Gallery display includes a set from the coastal area of Ecuador made of tagua and palm tree, one from Hawaii made with coconuts, a set from Los Andes, Peru contains llamas, and several from Uganda, East Germany and Haiti made from carved and painted wood. Child-friendly expressions include a wooden puzzle, Playmobil, Peanuts and the Gang, and Lego blocks. Children are also able to dress as an angel or shepherd for a photo with a life-size manger.

Gallery director Kate Philabaum called the exhibit, “a chance to share the Christmas story with others, and help them focus on the birth of Jesus during this season. The candlelight atmosphere in the beautiful gothic-styled gallery is magical for children as well as adults.”

“We’re happy to share this with the Toledo area community and show that even with different faith traditions and cultures, God brings us all together around the birth of Jesus. There are many expressions of how people see the Christmas story, but ultimately, we see that God is universal and his love is for all people,” commented Pastor Peter Bowmer of St. Pauls Lutheran Church.

Hours for the exhibit are 4-9pm Dec. 21 and 22 and 10-2pm Dec.23. Advent Lunch and Prayers will be held 12:15-1:15pm on Thursday, Dec. 21 with homemade soup, bread, with a selection of Christmas desserts from around the world. HeART Gallery is located in St Paul’s Lutheran Church, 428 N. Erie Street, downtown Toledo. Free parking is adjacent to the building, and the gallery is handicap accessible. Reservations for “Advent Lunch and Prayers” can be made by calling the church office 419.243.4214.

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