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Latter-day Saints display hundreds of nativity scenes
Church may take break next season
1208naitivity 7
Holly Mock, from left, Reid Mock and Henry Mock walk through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ eighth annual Nativity Festival Saturday evening. It was the second year the Flowery Branch family attended the event, they said. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Festival of the Nativity

When: 2-9 p.m. today

Where: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1234 Riverside Drive, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: 770-313-9014,

A Gainesville church is continuing a tradition that may go on hiatus next year.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gainesville is holding its ninth annual Gainesville Nativity Celebration. The display continues with extended hours from 2-9 p.m. today.

“It’s quite an undertaking,” said church member and Gainesville councilman George Wangemann.

In its first year, 30 nativities were on display. This year, nearly 800 such scenes from around the world are arranged inside the church.

Several hundred of the nativity scenes are loaned to the church by local residents.

As spectators made their way through the rows of miniature nativity scenes, many remarked on their unique beauty. One woman said her favorite were the ones of Israeli origin.

“Those are all made of olive wood,” Wangemann said.

Most years, he said, although a total of 50 to 60 people volunteer in total, just a few individuals are instrumental in the organization of event — and they need a break. The event is clearly a point of pride for the church, making all of the organization worthwhile.

“Some have said before that we (LDS) aren’t really Christian. You can pretty much tell with this that we do celebrate the season and we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth,” he said.

And it’s a nice opportunity to remind the community what Christmas is really about.

“We try to emphasize the spiritual side,” he said. “Showing the true meaning beyond Santa Claus and gifts and the commercial aspect.”