Making a Scene at Christmas

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.

Vision

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.

Structure

  • 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.

History

Year Schools Student Numbers Locations Number of Days Vistor Numbers
2012 Ballarat
(St Patrick’s Hall)
4 400
2013 Ballarat
(St Patrick’s Hall)
4 400
2014 Warrnambool 4 1000
2015 OLHC, Wendouree

St Thomas More, Alfredton

Lumen Christi, Delacombe

St Francis Xavier,
Ballarat East

1000 Ballarat
(Nazareth House)Ararat
1 for each school

1 for Nazareth House

3 for Ararat

450
2016 St Augustine’s, Creswick

St Mary’s, Robinvale

St Patrick’s,
St Arnaud

350 Creswick

Robinvale

Mildura

St Arnaud

Ballarat
(St Patrick’s Hall)

3 days Creswick

2 hours on the road

4 days Mildura

4 days Ballarat

500
2017 St Pius X, Warrnambool

St Alipius, Ballarat East

St Brigid’s, Ballan

Ballarat Specialist School

700 Shepparton

Canberra

Ballarat
Robert Clark Centre)

1 for each school

3 hours Shepparton

4 days Canberra

5 days Ballarat

2800

 

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.

Collectors

2012 – 2015:  Andrew Hayes, Fiona Tonkin, Keith Linard
2016 – 2017:  Andrew Hayes, Fiona Tonkin, Keith Linard, Kay Paton

Resources

The Committee has produced the following resources:

Making a Scene at Christmas - some ideas for parents
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Making a Scene at Christmas - discussion notes for teachers
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