New Brunswick woman's Nativity scene collection spans 70 countries

·2 min read
Annette Blanchard's collection of Nativity scenes is now on display for the public to see at the University of Moncton campus chapel. (Jérémie Tessier-Vigneault/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Annette Blanchard's collection of Nativity scenes is now on display for the public to see at the University of Moncton campus chapel. (Jérémie Tessier-Vigneault/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Annette Blanchette's collection of Nativity scenes represents a lifetime of gathering hundreds of carvings from adventures in countries around the world.

The 90-year-old originally from Memramcook has amassed more than 400 scenes, which are now on display at the Notre-Dame-d'Acadie chapel on the University of Moncton campus.

"It's special. I couldn't see myself at Christmas without putting up my nativity scene," she told Radio-Canada.

Scenes from around the world

The collection began when Blanchette bought her first scene during a trip to Mexico in 1970. She was intrigued after seeing biblical figures depicted with international influence and clothing.

"I saw the Virgin Mary and Joseph with a poncho and sombrero," she said. "It was very different from what I was used to seeing in our scenes, and it fascinated me. We did many trips and in each country we visited we always saw different ones."

Jérémie Tessier-Vigneault/Radio-Canada
Jérémie Tessier-Vigneault/Radio-Canada

Blanchette's collections kept growing after that initial trip, until she had scenes from 70 countries around the world. There are carvings made from beeswax close to home in New Brunswick, figures from Alaska made from volcanic lava, and wooden figures hand-crafted in Kenya.

Friends also brought back figures from their travels to contribute to the collection.

For each Nativity scene, Blanchette has a story to tell of memories and adventures during her travels.

Sharing the collection

Blanchette said her collection of Nativity scenes opened her friends from church to other cultures and Christmas traditions.

"There were many visitors to my home that would say, "Us, we always saw baby Jesus with blond hair,'" she said.

"They thought it was really interesting to see the figures were really reflective of those countries."

After moving to Dieppe, Blanchette decided to donate her Nativity scenes to the Notre-Dame-d'Acadie chapel, so other people could see them.

Jérémie Tessier/Radio-Canada
Jérémie Tessier/Radio-Canada

The collection is now on display to allow people to see how other cultures celebrate Christmas.

The scenes depicted in materials that include rice paper, aluminum, fish bones and stained glass line display cases in the chapel. Many local artists, including some Indigenous crafts people, are represented.

In addition to her donation to the church, Blanchette also passed down some pieces to her children and grandchildren to continue the Christmas tradition.

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