The American Bus Association has named the Wise Men Still Seek Him Nativity Exhibit at Historic Kirtland, Ohio on its top 100 list of places to visit.
Historic Kirtland is an important site in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members settled there from 1831 to 1838, built the Kirtland Temple and developed a thriving community.
Today, Historic Kirtland attracts visitors from many faiths, especially during the Christmas season. The exhibit is a very popular holiday activity for people in the area, according to nativity exhibit chair Stephanie Marra. “It's a wonderful bonding and uplifting experience to share with friends and neighbors. Anyone who sees the exhibit comes away with at least a basic understanding that Christ and Christmas are important to us. The title of the annual exhibit is, Wise Men Still Seek Him. We let the exhibit speak for itself.”
One of the favorite parts of the exhibit is a display of the life of Jesus Christ. “If we had to pick something that touched the visitors most it would be this display,” Marra explained. “It follows Christ’s life from birth with a nativity and the three gifts from the Magi. The focal point is a large donated olive wood display of the Last Supper. And then, finally, a small tomb.”
She said approximately 70,000 people have visited the exhibit since it started nearly 10 years ago. This year, people will be able to see 675 nativities, 225 of which have an international connection. “A large olive wood nativity was loaned to us by an 85-year-old man who commissioned it while he was in Jerusalem,” Marra said. This is the largest nativity in the exhibit. The smallest is a pewter nativity only three quarters of an inch high.
The nativities are made from many different materials, including corn husks, banana leaves, walnut shells and nails. The children can also dress up as wise men, shepherds or angels in the children’s room.
Marra said visitors express gratitude while at the exhibit because of how they feel when they view the nativities. “It’s something different for them,” remarked Marra. “And this is the reason, they have told us, that they come back every year.”
The exhibit is open and will run through 31 December 2011.
Christmas displays and festive lighting occurs at other Church locations around the world. Perhaps the best known is the one at historic Temple Square, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Others include the temple visitors’ centers in Washington, D.C., New Zealand, Los Angeles and Oakland, California, and Mesa, Arizona; the Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska; Independence, Missouri; Liberty Jail in Missouri and the Joseph Smith Birthplace in Sharon, Vermont.
All the exhibits are free and open to the public.