Valley City resident Sara Anderson Moore collects many things, but her most prized is her collection of nativity scenes — a collection with more than 300 pieces.
But Moore doesn’t keep her collection to herself. She’s excited to show them to others at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Valley City during an open house nativity set display from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday. Moore plans to show some of the sets she owns, and others will show their nativity sets too.
Moore showed her scenes three years ago during a show at Our Savior’s, and she graciously accepted to show them again this year. She plans to show sets that weren’t shown previously.
“What good are they if you can’t share them with other people?” Moore said of her collection that began with a set from her childhood.
“I just loved our nativity set when I was a little girl,” she said. “I just loved learning about Baby Jesus, and I know kids still love learning about Baby Jesus, and so it’s always had a special place in my heart.”
Moore said that set is the most valuable to her personally, but she’s spent more on other sets.
She said she isn’t one to spend much on clothes, makeup or jewelry. “I would never pay $60 for a shirt, but I would spend $60 on a nativity set without even batting an eye.”
Moore adds more to her collection every year, but her collection really took off in 1992.
“I had a couple sets, and I saw one that I liked, and my thought was, ‘I already have one,’ but it was so pretty, and I just thought, ‘why not?’” she said.
“That year, I got about a dozen for Christmas and it just exploded from there,” she added.
She thinks she got into collecting at the right time, when a variety of unique sets started popping up on the market. She continues to find sets she doesn’t own.
Her collection grows by about 20 sets each year. She looks everywhere for them, including catalogs, local stores, thrift stores, garage sales and online. She also receives many as gifts.
“Lots of people bring me scenes when they’re on vacation,” she said. “I have them from all over the world.”
Moore also seeks out sets when she’s on vacation. On a recent vacation in Hawaii, she added a set carved from a coconut.
“I really like it when I can find one where I go,” Moore said.
Although she can’t pick a favorite, Moore said she really likes her nontraditional sets, such as rubber ducks.
“The traditional ones are gorgeous, of course, but I just love the unique ones,” she said.
Moore’s collection ranges from an origami porcelain set to a set made of popsicle sticks that she found from a thrift store.
“They’re just like art. It’s amazing how you can take the exact same thing and show it in different ways,” she said.
With so many sets, Moore has two curios dedicated to displaying them. She said she tries to rotate the sets about twice a year, so the same ones aren’t displayed constantly.
With a collection this big, Moore has figured out a way to keep it organized. She puts a number on the bottom of every Mary in the collection, which is then documented in a book. When she’s not displaying her collection, she keeps them boxed up in her garage.
Although she’s only showing about 75 sets on Sunday, her goal is to have a show with all of her sets, but she just hasn’t found a space big enough to accommodate.
“Some day,” she said.
Nativity scenes aren’t the only thing Moore collects. She also collects Beanie Baby dogs, paper dolls and Fisher Price collectibles.
Moore, who works for Sheyenne Valley Special Education and Easter Seals, graduated high school and college here in Valley City, moved to Mandan for about 15 years, and moved back a few years ago. That’s when she met her husband, who she’s been married to for a year now.
The nativity set open house will also feature nativity sets from others. Bev Loken will display a set she recently received as a gift from family in Norway. She will also display a set whose crèche was made from the barn which Mikkel Loken built on the farm where he homesteaded in the 1880’s near Pierpont, S.D.
Pastor Emmy Isaakson will display her olive wood set which she purchased in Bethlehem while on a visit to the Holy Land.
Sets include music boxes, those made of wood, ceramic, ivory, barbed wire, square nails, rolled magazines, etc. and range in size from miniature to large and everything in between.
The church urges people to plan to stay for a time of fellowship in the Gathering Room and enjoy coffee, hot cider, and Christmas goodies.
“Come, let the sound of Christmas music, the taste of Christmas goodies, and Nativity set displays help bring you ‘closer to the manger,’” they said in a release.