Florence’s Nativity Festival bigger than ever

Photos by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News

Dec. 14, 2022 — From Dec. 2 to 4, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Florence hosted its annual Nativity Festival. The event celebrated its 15th year in 2022.

A nativity scene can be almost anything as long as it tells the story of the birth of Jesus. The Nativity Festival brings together hundreds of nativity scenes to one location, creating a virtual tour around the world through the different media artists have used to create their individual scene.

There were nativities made of wood, plastic, porcelain and Legos. There were big nativities. There were small nativities. There were nativities from almost every continent on Earth.

A holiday tradition for many people in the Florence area, the festival is the combined effort of many individuals who share their nativities each year at the church, but it is thanks to one woman that Florence is lucky enough to have such a festival in our town.

Vickie Kennedy brought the idea when she came to Florence years ago from her church in California.

“I was on the crèche [French for nativity] committee down there,” recalled Kennedy. “Then when I moved up here, there wasn't one and I thought, ‘Why not? We should have a nativity festival.’ So, we talked to the powers that be and they said, go for it. I didn't expect it to grow.”

Grow it did. This year’s festival featured more than 480 individual nativity scenes.

Like many traditions around the world, this one was forced to take a hiatus thanks to COVID, but even after a two-year break, participation in the event was at an all-time high.

“This year, we had over 100 more nativities than we had last time in 2019,” Kennedy said. “A lot of people here have said, ‘Thank you for doing this. I miss connecting with the community.’”

The nativity scene is a religious tradition that is often embraced by even the most casual believers and can be a small decoration that can bring large amounts of Christmas joy.

“Sometimes a nativity is all people have,” explained Kennedy. “I had a woman who thought about taking one of our giveaway nativities but thought she didn’t have room. Then she came back and said, ‘You know, my daughter can’t afford a Christmas tree this year. I can give her this.’”

During each festival, there is a table for people to take a nativity scene home if they don’t have one and want one.

“Sometimes our displayers want to thin out their collections,” said Kennedy. “We have a table over there on the side where we put a little sign that says, ‘I need a home.’ Then, if someone doesn’t have one, they can take one home.”

The festival is always on the lookout for more displayers. All it takes is a nativity set of your own that you’d like to share with the community. Those who are interested in displaying their nativities at future festivals can reach out to Kennedy at 541-991-7397.

Photos by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News