The reason for the season

Saturday, December 19, 2009

GREENCASTLE -- The holiday season is a busy time filled with hustle and bustle -- so much so that it's easy sometimes to forget what it's all about.

Jack and Betty Wright, however, are reminded of the reason for the season hundreds of times over through their collection of crèches.

At Christmastime, the couple puts out their more than 850 nativity scenes. Miniature mangers of all sizes are displayed in every room of their home.

The Wrights even host an open house to allow people to come in and see their manger scenes. As guests view the many pieces -- some on tables, some on the floor, some on shelves, some hanging on walls or Christmas trees and still others in glass cabinets -- Jack and Betty happily answer questions.

"I just love to share them," Betty said.

The hundreds of manger scenes are made from a wide variety of materials. The oldest nativity in the collection -- acquired by Betty when she was a child -- is made of celluloid. Some are made of glass; still others are made of tin foil, paper, metal or cornhusks.

The collection contains hand-stitched and Japanese embroidery wall hangings, quilt blocks and tatted lace scenes, as well as some painted on Christmas tree ornaments and egg shells. Frames containing postage stamps and greeting cards bearing depictions of the nativity are hung on the walls of the Wrights' home.

Jack crafted somewhere between 50 and 60 of the wooden scenes in the couple's collection.

"You can find nativities made of just about everything," Betty said.

Many of the crèches in the Wrights' collection have come from other lands. Betty said they have pieces from more than 50 countries. There are nativities from Austria, Spain, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Hungary, the Czech Republic and many other places.

"It's amazing how many new ones we can find when we travel," she said. "When we were in Spain once, I met a woman from Georgia who said she collected nativities, too. I said, 'Really? How many do you have?' She said she had 32 ... at the time, I had about 500."

Jack said it's hard to figure an exact number of pieces in the collection, because it's ever growing.

"We pick them up here and there all the time, and people always get them for us as gifts," he said.

As their collection has grown, Jack and Betty have had a harder time finding unique pieces.

"We try not to get duplicates," Betty said.

The Wrights keep 50 or 60 of the crèches out all year long, but the majority of them come out only at Christmastime.

"It's a real job to get them all out," Jack said.

As time-consuming as it is, getting her collection out each year is something Betty looks forward to.

"Every time I take one out and look at it, I remember where I was when I got it or who gave it to me," Betty said with a smile. "That makes it special."

Betty takes some of her pieces on the road occasionally, giving programs at area churches, civic group

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