NEW MINAS, NS - It’s a living nativity scene that includes a hand-built representation of the Biblical village of Bethlehem, costumed actors and live animals – and it’s proven to be very popular.
The New Minas Baptist Church congregation is hosting its third annual living nativity scene on Dec. 1, 2 and 3. Dec. 1 and 2 are drive-through evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Dec. 3 will be a walk-through from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Pastor Paul Fowler said the main reason for holding the living nativity scene is to celebrate the origins of Christmas by sharing the story of the birth of Jesus in a fun, interactive way.
“We’ve been trying to let people know what the true meaning of Christmas is and to give people the chance to reflect and think about what it’s all about,” Fowler said. “It’s a real unity builder for our congregation.”
Fowler said they hold a kick-off event for the congregation to get the organizational ball rolling. Members of all ages look forward to staging the event and they have a lot of fun doing it.
It takes approximately 230 volunteers from the church community to organize and put on the living nativity scene, which includes live animals. Fowler estimates that it takes a combined 300 to 400 volunteer hours to prepare for it.
Fowler said the first year was somewhat overwhelming, as they had no idea how many visitors to expect. A traffic jam was the unintended result. Last year and again this year, the Village of New Minas has given permission for organizers to divert drive-through traffic through the neighbouring Lockhart and Ryan Memorial Park to help avoid congestion on Commercial Street.
Fowler said they’ve had approximately 700 cars come through each year. Including both drive-through nights and the inaugural walk-through night last year, an estimated 2,500 people enjoyed the scene. Some travelled from as far as Truro, the Eastern Shore and Yarmouth.
Fowler said they have costumed “census takers” that work to keep track of the numbers, which also fits in with the Christmas story. The reason Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem was to be counted in a census.
For the first time this year, during the walk-through evening, actors will be re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s arrival in Bethlehem. They’ll be spotlighted as they make their way through the village, with Mary walking their donkey.
Those attending are asked to bring along a food bank donation if possible. Fowler said this is a way to highlight and help address need in the community.
Some of the costumed actors will be at the County Fair Mall in New Minas on Nov. 24 and 25 to help promote the living nativity scene.