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Nativity Scenes Shine Light On Holiday Season's True Meaning

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints welcomed families to celebrate Christmas during a two-day event featuring hundreds of nativity scenes for the holidays.

Family, religion and spirit were felt by visitors to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' third annual Celebration of the Nativity, featuring hundreds of nativity scenes for the holidays.

Elder Evans, a missionary at the church who is serving at the Port Washington branch, said the Christmas season can get "hectic," so it's important to remember the season's meaning.

"It’s the birth of our savior," Evans said. "We get to remember his birth. As we view these nativity scenes and really buckle-down and the Christmas season can get really hectic, we can really feel that Christmas spirit, and really remember why we celebrate Christmas."

Family is also something that is very important during the holiday season, he said.

"Family is the greatest gift from God," Evans said. "This is the time where families get together from all across the nation, wherever your family may be. Everyone always gets together, and you can share that moment, and really just enjoy that time as a family."

The two-day event is held the first weekend in December, where members of the church bring in nativities. There are over 400 nativity scenes assembled this year. Kevin Wirtz, an employee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints described these scenes.

"These nativities come from all over the world," Wirtz said. "We have them from Africa, South America, Italy, Germany, Russia, Mexico; sets have been made all over the United States, and it’s just really unique to see all the different ones. There’s lots of hand-painted ones, and nativities have been made from casts, and put in the furnace, and fired, and so it's both store-bought and homemade, or crafted elsewhere."

The event included performances by Tahlia Morris on the harp, Kate Mitchell on the viola, and by the North Shore Suzuki Strings. The North Shore Suzuki Strings is a group comprised of violin and cello players between the ages of three and 17. They regularly play concerts throughout the Milwaukee area during the holiday season.

Carol Waldvogel, the director of North Shore Suzuki Strings, said she was excited to bring her group out to the nativity scenes event in Port Washington.

"I’ve been looking forward to coming to see this church for a long time," Waldvogel said. "I heard all about these nativity scenes, and everything; it sounded very special."

She said the musicians also benefit from playing in a varity of concerts, including Port's event.

"We like to celebrate all the holidays, acknowledge all the different religions,"Waldvogel said. "I think they get a lot of things out of it; self-esteem, a sense of giving to the community, and being able to play new pieces every year, adding to their repertoire, gives them confidence."

For one Ozaukee County resident who attended the Saturday event, coming together during this holiday season held a very special meaning.

"I look forward to seeing my family this year," Nancy Matecki said. "It's going to be kind of a tough one. My mom died in August, so it's my brothers and me now; dad died 10 years ago, and so it's (going to) be a new kind of Christmas for us. It's like it's not Christmas until you see the Christmas tree at mom and dad's; it's a family home now."

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