Yesterday around 4pm, Arden called me (she was out and about) and asked if I could be ready to leave the house in 45 minutes. There was something downtown she wanted to show me but we were limited on time. I said OK and got ready to go.
She got home about 4:30 and we left soon after. We headed to an old, historic church in town where a woman named Faye Landham had a Christmas display for people to come and see, free of charge. The display was a huge collection of nativity scenes she had collected from all around the world. She has over 800 individual pieces in her display and she sets them up every year in the old church. She has been collecting nativity scenes since 1958, when she received her first one as a gift from her parents. (That would make her currently 72.) This is her 18th year displaying them to the public. And she does it out of the goodness of her heart.
This is Faye beside just one table of her collection:
Faye has nativity scenes from 82 different countries in the world. She says she has "over 800 pieces" but says she doesn't know the actual number because she says "It's difficult to keep up." She gets new pieces all the time; some she buys and others are given to her by people who have seen her display. She even got one from an elderly woman who was dying and saw her display on a local television station. It's a simple cast iron creche, about 3x2x5, painted with bright colors. She says it probably cost about 10 cents when it was made back in 1933.
The woman had an adult son. Faye told her that the piece should obviously go to her son. The woman's response was "He won't love it like you do." She says of all the different pieces she has, regardless of price or where it is from - that one is her favorite. She keeps it next to a couple of Lladros that cost several thousand dollars each.
Just one of the interesting things about this incredible woman and her collection is that with the exception of one small table, containing the Lladros, her special piece from the dying woman, and a couple of other pieces that are either very valuable or mean something very special to her, every piece in the collection is open to be handled, touched and enjoyed - even by children. And understand that most of them are breakable, made of ceramic, wood, straw, corn husks, coconut shells, etc. She could lose one to breakage at any time but allows people to handle them at will. I'm not sure I could do that.
Faye has one scene that consists of pieces her late grandmother, Dora Lee Basham, made for her. It's made of white ceramic that her grandmother poured and baked herself. And those she also lets people handle. It's the set in the center of this picture:
Faye has a collection of music boxes that are all Christmas themed. She says the children like them most of all. She has any and every kind of nativity scene you can imagine. Some are made of recycled bottles, others are painted button covers, cookie cutters, jewelry, pillows, books, candles, throws, puzzles and even a dust pan.
She has (obviously) several friends who help her set it up and take it down every year. She says she stores the collection after every display in her barn in a total of 53 large plastic storage bins. That's a lot of packing and unpacking, done with love every year by this remarkable woman.
Some of her more unique pieces are hand-painted cypress knees, a carved piece of ash from Mount Saint Helens, a carved piece of a thorn tree from Nigeria, and a scene from Norway in which the animals present are horses and elephants. She has no idea why. She also has whimsical sets in which the Biblical characters are made up of animals such as dogs, cats and even one from Alaska consisting of penguins.
I wish I could post individual pictures of so many of the pieces but it would take all day. And I have other things I have to accomplish today. But I wanted to share this very special woman and her collection with you. I hope you enjoy it - even if you can't see it in person.
Faye has a handout she gives to people about her collection. In the first paragraph she relays why she does this every year: "God is so good and loves us so much. I pray that my collection will somehow convey that goodness and love as we are reminded of God's wonderful grace He has shown by sending His Son to Earth, dying on the cross for us."
All I can say is "Amen."
May God bless you all. Merry Christmas.