Nativity showcase celebrates culture

Donated nativity sets decorate the library reading room for the Christmas season.


Becky Mitchell/THE CHIMES

Jana Eller, Writer

Biola library’s reading room holds a cultural display of nativities from around the world until Jan. 8.


Alongside the tree in the reading room of the Biola library, the staff has decorated the shelves by the windows with dozens of nativity sets from different countries around the world. The sets were donated by Patricia Chapman, world traveler and alumna, after collecting them for over 50 years.

Chapman, after the death of her husband, decided to start a new Christmas tradition for her daughters collecting nativity sets, starting with the one given to her from her mother. The first set Chapman bought was a cardboard set from a local store in 1960. By last year she had collected around 75 sets from 10 to 15 different countries. To her, each set represents a different culture.

Each set is made of different materials and holds different shapes reflecting their countries of origin, respectively. This includes a wooden set with candles from Germany, a paper mache set from Mexico and a set carved from a coconut from Hawaii. Each set reflects how the different cultures view the Christmas story and can be seen through the different shapes, colors and pictures portrayed. Slight differences between regions or time periods appear between some sets from a different part of the same country. All the sets displayed have labels indicating their origin.


Chapman hopes students will learn from them and understand how different cultures around the world portray the same story. It is important to see how even though we may be taught to view the world and the Christmas story differently from what we are used to, Christ is above culture, Chapman said. We all have the same reason to celebrate this time of year. Christmas should be a time to come together with our differences and celebrate Christ, Chapman said.

“[I want students to] look at them with an open mind, to know what other cultures thought about Christmas,” Chapman said.

Cassandra Nevarez, freshman music education major, likes having the different cultures displayed in the reflective space.

“I like that we have the nativity scenes in [the reading room] and all these different pieces from around the world and you’re able to sit and relax [where] you have all this culture, actually brought from all around the world and put right into the library for us to enjoy,” Nevarez said.


The sets add a unique Christmas feeling to the reading room and provide a pleasant study break. Jacob Moran, junior communication studies major and library staff member, likes how the sets represent the season well.

“I think they’re a nice little addition to our library. It’s just a nice way of putting a little bit of a Christmas aesthetic,” Moran said. “It doesn’t look lazily put about, it looks neatly put up with the glass containers and everything.”

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