Nativity collection on display at St. Olaf Church

Dave Peters considers himself a collector.

He has an interest in Seraphim Angels and enjoys his collection of Norman Rockwell figurines, but one collection -his nativity scenes – is the largest of all.

“I have at least 200 of them,” said Peters. “My grandmother had one when I was growing up, and I always thought it was a neat way to depict the birth of Christ.”

The nativity scenes are on display through Dec. 15 in the fellowship hall at St. Olaf Lutheran Church. The display features scenes of all sizes and colors from around the world.

Peters started his collection about seven years ago when he purchased a wooden nativity set while on a mission trip in Nicaragua.

“They are from all over, but I have found many of them at garage sales,” he said. “I probably went to about 100 garage sales last summer.”

The collection includes nativities from Mexico, a ceramic display from Alaska with seals and polar bears in place of livestock and an igloo instead of a stable, and a Hawaiian nativity made of monkey pod wood. Another set came straight from Bethlehem, the city of Christ’s birth.

“It was made of olive wood on the West Bank of the Jordan,” said Peters.

The nativity sets cover three large tables and the floor at the front of the fellowship hall.

Some are musical, others light up. The smallest is a tiny pewter set that is inside a bell. Another is made up of cats. Some are not individual sets but are pictured on children’s puzzles and games, flags and a Rubik’s Cube. Some of the smaller sets are displayed as centerpieces on the tables in the fellowship hall.

“There are four on each table, and we have 15 tables set up. said Peters. “We’ve invited some groups and organizations to come see them, and we feed the men from Beacon of Hope in this room almost every night.”

Once the display is taken down, many of Peters’ nativities will be set up in his home for the remainder of the Christmas season.

Peters said he will probably add to his collection as he finds sets throughout the year. He said the nativities are often just a secondary item he and his wife find while browsing sales for another reason.

“We always seek out the Christmas items at garage sales,” he said. “We get the nativities for us, but we are really out there looking for things to give to Operation Christmas and the YWCA.”