Join us this Christmas Season for our annual Nativity Exhibit. With hundreds of nativities from around the world on display, you won't want to miss it!
Annually in December, the Historic Kirtland Visitors Center exhibits hundreds of Nativities, drawing visitors from all of Ohio and beyond.
These beautiful Nativities are made of traditional fabrics, glass porcelain, jewels, wood carvings, clay, and even bullet casings. Thousands of people from far and near come to the Historic Visitors' Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to view the Nativities on display.
The Visitors' Center is located at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland, Ohio, just south of Mentor, Ohio, and near Interstate 90, which provides easy access and is set up as a visitor destination in Lake County, Ohio.
Most of the Nativities on display during December are on loan or are donated by local collectors. They consist of impressive variations of the traditional mother, baby, and Joseph with the typical sheep, camels, and donkeys, but there are also not-so-traditional lions, giraffes, a hippo, a snake, and even a turtle.
This year, 2022, is the 19th year of the Nativity display in Kirtland. A "regular" nativity exhibit at the historic sites was not held in 2020 due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints work for weeks in advance of the Opening to set up the displays as each of the precious creches is cataloged, photographed, and inventoried. Each piece is accounted for in the record for the donor as we know how precious they are to the owners.
The Volunteers work to get the lighting and display materials "just right" to highlight every nativity set.
The exhibit features unique Nativity scenes from more than 70 countries, including Africa, Liberia, Thailand, Germany, France, Italy, Indonesia, Rwanda, China, and India. They are created of stained glass, bottles, broom corn, paper, straw, copper, gold leaf, olive wood, clay, brass, old oil drums, and even beeswax. Kirtland resident; Travis Buford welded his from nails and bolts. The Nativity scenes can be carved from exotic woods, tucked into a walnut shell, or set into a geode. There are many antique Christmas cards and tree ornaments as well.
In one of the scenes, at the end of World War II, the nativity was given as a gift to a soldier, another scene is a tiny nesting doll nativity with a baby only the size of a kernel of rice. There is one from El Salvador with the baby Jesus seemingly too large for the set, but cultural tradition is that the Christ child should always be large, as He is the center of the story. A favorite of the committee is from the Netherlands with the baby Jesus in a tiny wooden clog. Mary is standing behind him with tulips in her arms, and Joseph is playing the accordion.
We continue to be amazed at the imagination and creativity of the artists who create these amazing pieces of art. Their love for and the presentation of their Faith in Jesus Christ is very uplifting not only to us but to all of our visitors. We appreciate them for sharing their beloved treasures with our visitors.
The event has received numerous awards and recognition from various organizations throughout Ohio. We usually receive 9000 to 10,000 visitors during December as they come to celebrate the birth of Christ the Savior.