Vin Dillon, when travelling in the USA entered a “Christmas Shop” where he found many decorations but very few, and well hidden, nativity sets. He wondered why is Christmas so divorced from the real story of the Good News of God’s incarnation.
On returning to Ballarat he developed an idea to open up the conversation where people can talk about the meaning of Christmas. He sought seeding funding from the Cathedral Parish, found a few dedicated committee members and looked for people who had Nativity sets that they would be happy to display for a weekend in December. Certain parameters were set and these have remained constant:
- The display is to be colourful and professional;
- Only nativities are featured – no trees, tinsel, santa claus, etc.;
- It must be child friendly – achieved with a section for craft activities (making your own nativity), or nativities that can be safely played with;
- Any profits beyond that which covers costs are given to charity (St Vincent de Paul);
- Prior promotion is to all Christian Churches;
- Non-commercial resources for parents are available free of charge;
- Public liability is covered by Church insurance;
- All nativities are welcome – this is not a display of “quality only”;
- Frankincense and Myrrh are there to be seen and smelt.
Three collectors who were willing to display their collections, and other members of the community, loaned their precious nativities that had a story. About 350 nativities were displayed on colourful cloths in St Patrick’s Hall.
Schools were invited and classes were given a valuable learning experience in rotation – the story, a walk through the nativities, an activity, input about Christmas.
It was well attended and it was decided that the Making a Scene at Christmas would continue and develop. The Committee believed that it should travel through the Diocese and not be Ballarat-centric.
Over the years the structure of the committee has changed.
By displaying nativity sets the conversation of what Christmas is about will be opened for those who visit. Their understanding of Christmas will be validated in a public forum.
- Collections of Nativities that highlight the various elements of the Gospel stories, which highlight cultural variations, that have artistic merit or have a “special” story about them, are put on display in public venues.
- An education program built around a smaller collection is developed for primary school children. This involves telling the story of Jesus’ birth, age appropriate input on parts of the Nativity story, a look at the display and an opportunity to make a nativity.
- Teachers’ notes and parents’ notes will be available for distribution. These notes are aimed to support teachers and parents with age appropriate and simple activities that allow for the discussion of Christmas to happen.
|Year||Schools||Student Numbers||Locations||Number of Days||Vistor Numbers|
(St Patrick’s Hall)
(St Patrick’s Hall)
St Thomas More, Alfredton
Lumen Christi, Delacombe
St Francis Xavier,
|1 for each school
1 for Nazareth House
3 for Ararat
|2016||St Augustine’s, Creswick
St Mary’s, Robinvale
|3 days Creswick
2 hours on the road
4 days Mildura
4 days Ballarat
|2017||St Pius X, Warrnambool
St Alipius, Ballarat East
St Brigid’s, Ballan
Ballarat Specialist School
|1 for each school
3 hours Shepparton
4 days Canberra
5 days Ballarat
In 2016 MASAC applied for and received a grant from the Diocesan Foundation which, over two years, enabled the purchase of “setting up” items – a trailer, banners, table cloths, AV and audio equipment, bollards.
2012 – 2015: Andrew Hayes, Fiona Tonkin, Keith Linard
2016 – 2017: Andrew Hayes, Fiona Tonkin, Keith Linard, Kay Paton
The Committee has produced the following resources: