ARLINGTON — For the fourth year in a row, the Arlington Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be connecting visitors to the origins of Christmas through their Nativity Festival from Dec. 12-15.
Cyndy Thompson, director of public affairs for the Arlington Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explained that the Nativity Festival was preceded by an annual Christmas concert, which started out with just a choir and a mini-orchestra on Sunday evening, before it expanded to cover both Saturday and Sunday, and was eventually accompanied by a relatively small display of nativity sets in the church's main hall.
"There was such interest in it that, over time, it came to include a variety of artwork and music in our Life of Christ room, outside of our nativity sets, depicting the journey of Christ, from his birth in a manger to his death on a cross," Thompson said of the Nativity Festival, which has since grown to include hundreds of nativity sets from around the world, provided for the duration of the event by more than 90 local community members. "We've even added a children's activity room, where kids can make crafts and play with child-friendly nativity sets, and even don nativity costumes themselves, in a children's nativity scene complete with stables and handmade wooden animals."
Children who visit won't be the only ones dressing up for the occasion, since eight congregations have volunteered to supply at least five people each to pose for the live nativity, standing in shifts throughout the event.
"There will be some live babies as the Baby Jesus, but they can be replaced by a standby plastic baby if needed, in case a group can't come up with their own baby, or if their baby gets too fussy," Thompson laughed.
One new wrinkle of this year's Nativity Festival takes it back to its roots, by bringing in the Stanwood High School Jazz Ensemble on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m., followed by the Children's Choir on Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. on both days, and a choir concert at 7 p.m. on Dec. 14 and Sunday, Dec. 15.
"The year before last, Erik Ronning, who's the director of the Stanwood High School Jazz Ensemble, sang 'O Holy Night' at the Nativity Festival," Thompson said. "It was a beautifully done presentation, so we told him that he could invite his choir to add to the festivities."
More than anything, Thompson regards the Arlington Nativity Festival as a non-denominational way for families to come together and reflect on what inspired their festivities in the first place.
"It's become a tradition for many area families to start their Christmas season by stopping by to see all the nativity sets," Thompson said. "As gorgeous as it is, it's not commercial, because it's there to celebrate Christ's birth, which is the reason for the season. A lot of effort and love has gone into this event."
The Arlington Nativity Festival will be hosted at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located at 17222 43rd Ave. NE in Arlington, from 6-9 p.m. on Dec. 12-13, and from 3-8:30 p.m. on Dec. 14-15. Admission is free, and further details are available online at www.arlingtonnativityfestival.org.