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Hundreds of Nativities Displayed for Community

Dec 09, 2015 11:30AM ● Published by Rachel Hall

By Rachel Hall

West Valley - For many, the joy of the holiday season is a feeling worth lasting all year long. Joleen Wright, a West Valley City resident, happily kicked off the start of the Christmas season by displaying over 600 of her personal nativities from around the world for friends, neighbors and visitors to admire at the Granger East Stake South building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Nov. 13 and 14.

“It starts the Christmas spirit. Christmas is already out in the stores,” Wright said about showcasing the unique pieces before Thanksgiving.

The display itself took over 12 hours to set out with the help of many volunteers. 

“When you stop and think about getting all of the little pieces out of the boxes, for all these nativities, we had to have lots of help to do that. But the people who did that were thrilled, because they didn’t know what they were unwrapping until they got it unwrapped. They said, ‘Wow! This is just like a Christmas present,’” she said.

Wright has spent many years collecting the pieces from all over the world. Many of her friends and family look for nativities to gift to her on special occasions, even when they see something they think she will like.

“I’ve been married 51 years, and I’ve been collecting since day one,” Wright said. “I have a lot from different countries, but I haven’t been to those countries.”

As friends and family have helped add to her collection over the years, many have wondered if Wright has a favorite: she doesn’t.

“I don’t have a favorite, because they are all my favorite,” she said.

Admirers of the nativities also wonder how she stores such an amazing collection throughout the year. Wright keeps everything organized by numbering paper bags that the nativities are in, until they are returned to their original boxes in her basement. 

“It doesn’t take very much space once I get them back in their original boxes. It’s half a room in the basement. It’s not bad,” she said.

The two-day event was organized with the help of Wright’s daughter, Christine Bowman, who flew in from Colorado to help with the design of the display. Creating multiple levels of nativities not only enhanced the ambience of the setting, but made several nativities eye-level for children to see.

“They need to be viewed,” Wright said. 

Sheri Biesinger brought her children to see the display, and two of her sons willingly selected their favorites: a lego display and a crystal set.

“It is just amazing that she has collected these things. Every one is beautiful. Every single one is extra special,” Biesinger said. “We are going to go home and pull out our nativities. She has inspired us.”

Another visitor, Pauline Allen, was amazed to see the nativities, and even wished a few on display would have been for sale.

“I would buy a bunch,” Allen said. “I like to come here and look, because my mother used to have stuff in every room of her house.”

Allen was not the only one who was inspired by the collection from countries such as: Poland, the Philippines, Israel, Mongolia, Vietnam and many more. Each nativity was made out of unique materials like banana leaves, cedar wood, paper mache, olive wood, wool and others.

Horatio and Charlene Gregory, husband and wife, attended the event with cameras in hand.

“The reason I am taking so many pictures is because I have taken pictures of other [displays], and it will give me ideas for building my own,” Horatio said.

“The normal ones are gorgeous, but I like the unique ones so much,” Charlene said.

A small treat of Christmas cookies and cashew brittle was available for visitors as they finished walking through the display. Sincere appreciation for Wright being willing to share a little Christmas spirit was evident from thankful guests. However, the display will not return next year as an annual event. It will probably be back in two years.  

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