by Tim Troglen | Reporter
Hudson - For many, Christmas means colorfully wrapped presents, a jolly old elf resplendent in red and treats to sweeten up the most blustery days.
However, Christmas is also about a baby, swaddled in rags, kept warm in humble surroundings by the love of his mom and the animals sharing the manger.
To keep that theme in the minds of Hudson Holiday Walk visitors, the First Congregational Church of Hudson for the eighth time will re-enact the Nativity Dec. 2 from 1 to 6 p.m. on the Main Street Green. It will include live animals, a manger built by volunteers, and costumed performers, including infants as Baby Jesus.
“Our congregation is honored to be the church that brings a live depiction of the original Christmas story to Hudson’s Green each year,” said Dee Buchanan, Christian education director for the church. “We do it with joy and enthusiasm, regardless of the weather — which has ranged from beautiful and sunny to a foot of snow to pouring rain.”
Buchanan called it a wonderful opportunity to take part during the “hustle and bustle” of the walk.
“We are right there, in the middle of it all, reminding everyone of why we string lights and shop for the people we love and bake our favorite treats — all to celebrate the birth of Christ,” she said.
More than 100 volunteers work to create the live Nativity each year, Buchanan said.
“Members of our congregation volunteer for all of the spots, with the wise people spots being the first to be filled each year,” Buchanan said.
The children proudly look forward to putting on their angel wings or shepherds’ cloaks, Buchanan said.
“And our adults are equally as enthusiastic to join in the fun,” she added. “Of course, the most exciting part of our live Nativity is the camel that will stand proudly with the wise people again this year.
“The camel will be accompanied by all of the other necessary four legged participants — a donkey, with the cross on its back, sheep and an ox.”
From 2 to 3 p.m., church and staff members will be in costume. The three church ministers will be dressed as the three wise people, Buchanan said.
From 4 to 5 p.m. a variety of church youth group members will depict the characters, Buchanan said.
One of the members taking part is Leah Kessler, a ninth-grader at Hudson High School. Leah will be Mary.
“I participate in the live Nativity because it’s fun to be there, having the experience, in both cold and snow,” Leah said. “I’ve been doing it since I can remember.”
Leah enjoys playing Mary because of the different perspective the part give her, Leah said.
“Sometimes, there’s a real baby so whomever is acting as Joseph and Mary gets to hold a real child of God,” Leah said. “It’s interesting to sit in the small covering, against the weather, and to think that this is not even close to what Mary and Joseph went through to deliver Jesus.
“It’s a great tradition, and I recommend it for everybody.”
A team of 12 men and high schoolers assemble the stable the day before the event, Buchanan said. The team takes it down each year “the minute the Clocktower strikes 6 p.m. on Sunday.”
“The stable was made as a confirmation project by two confirmands and their mentors a number of years ago,” Buchanan said. “This summer our stable got a fresh coat of paint by our summer missionaries.”
The costumes, which range from “elaborate wise people finery, complete with fur collars and satin trimmings, to sparkling angel wings and halos, to the simple garb of Mary,” Buchanan said.
The costumes were made by members of the church congregation.
“Our live Nativity is a true labor of love for our congregation,” Buchanan said.
“Some of our very newest members of our church family have been invited to come down to the Green to be placed in the arms of Mary. Of course, all of our Baby Jesuses are a bit unpredictable with feeding and napping schedules, so we have a stand-in ready for those times.”
Buchanan has a lifetime of memories from past nativities, but they all merge together, she said.
“Aside from the year that one of the sheep got loose and I ended up chasing it across the Green and tackling it under one of the Christmas trees, I would have to say that my memories of past years all merge together into just one single joyful day when life comes to a standstill, just for a moment, and we place ourselves at the foot of the manger,” she said.