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Nativity sets reflect true meaning of Christmas for collector

Managing editor

The main reason Nancy Methvin of rural Marion County started collecting nativity sets, also known as a crèche, was her children.

“The nativity is important,” she said, and has been part of telling the Christmas story, particularly when her five children were young.

Her collection started with a snow globe with Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus when Nancy and husband Jack lived in Louisiana.

The family’s house burned in 1977, and they found themselves in Kansas in the summer of 1978 on the county line between Marion and Chase counties — grazing cattle.

“We enrolled the children in school and they loved it,” Nancy Methvin said. “So, we stayed.”

The couple’s children — Jeff, Brent, and Clay — attended and graduated from Centre High School. Jeff lives near Peabody. Brent and Clay help with the family ranch business.

Gretchen and Andy are Marion High School graduates. Gretchen lives in Greenwood, Ind., and Andy in Wichita.

When the family settled in Kansas, Nancy Methvin’s nativity collection kicked into high gear.

Her family and friends have given Methvin all kinds of sets.

Nearly two dozen of these sets are on display through December at Marion City Library, 101 Library St., Marion.

How many sets does Methvin have?

“I don’t know. I’ve never counted them,” Methvin said with a smile. “Probably a couple hundred.”

The retired English teacher has them everywhere in her home — in curio cabinets, on shelves, and stored in boxes with some now on display during the Christmas season.

Some sets from Methvin’s collection on display at the library include the Biblical characters wearing cornhusk clothing, a pewter set from Germany, and a Native American set with ponies instead of camels.

Other sets are from Northern Spain, Venezuela, South America, Peru, Germany, Italy, the Philippines, and some made by local and area artists including one made of horseshoe nails by Tracy Hett and an oak set made by a crafter in Delavan.

So, which one is her favorite?

“If I had a favorite, it would be this one,” Methvin said, pointing to a white display made of mother-of-pearl.

Her friends — Wayne and Goldie Steely, formerly of Burdick — visited Bethlehem and purchased the piece for their friend.

A cloth wall-hanging in the display case at the library is also special to Methvin because it belonged to her late mother and had hung in her childhood home.

“I purchase a set each year,” Methvin said, “only one set.”

Among those she has purchased is a Jim Shore set. Shore is known for dressing figurines in quilts.

“I love his because of the quilts,” Methvin said, since she makes quilts and enjoys needlework.

Unusual sets include one made in Peru that has llamas instead of traditional animals and a set from South Africa where Joseph and Mary have hand-sewn beads for bodies.

Methvin also pointed out what she referred to as an Amish set where the simple, barefoot figures didn’t have features on their faces.

There is a large, counted cross-stitch that Methvin made and it hangs year-round in the Methvin’s home.

Methvin also collects nativity ornaments.

“Maybe I’ll bring them to the library next year,” she said.

Last modified Dec. 2, 2009

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