Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Julie Hilton Steele

"When I was first married, I developed a fascination for nativities.  Other young married couples began their traditions with a “First Christmas” ornament, I bought a starter Fontanini nativity set.  These beautiful creations have been around since 1908 and are made by the fourth generation of the Fontanini family in Italy.  Maybe my inspiration came from the Moravian putz in the church next to our elementary school (every year, we took a field trip across the playground to see it).  It could be my love for St. Francis who invented the nativity scene to illustrate the Christmas story for poor, illiterate villagers.  Whatever the reason, I loved nativities more than the Christmas tree and other décor.  My husband loves ME a lot because we have added to our collection for thirty years now.

"First I started with the basic Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus figures. The next year I added shepherds and followed, a year later, with the wise men.  Sheep, camels, and even ducks were interspersed with fishermen, young boys, artisans and centurions.  As our family grew, my daughter caught the bug and we began shopping together each year for a different villager or building.

"In addition to adding characters in the Christmas story, we began looking for pieces which reflected our family or events during the year such as a little red-haired girl with her mother, a bakery when my daughter started marketing her baking skills,  a dog to remember our dearly departed Duchess.  Other years, we decide on a village well, a flower cart or a lighted fireplace for pizzazz. The nativity is never set up the same and has grown so large this year we have had to put it on two different buffets in our dining room.   Traditionally, my daughter is also the one to set it up.  I didn’t know it was a tradition until I set it up without her one year.  Never again!"

 Had to include Julie's lovely sig file quote:
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.  ~ Melody Beattie

Thank you so much, Julie!


  1. I just love seeing these, and the photos are fab!

  2. I Love Nativity scenes. I once toured St Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, Quebec, Canada around Christmas time. There was a display set up of over two hundred of them. From ones carved into a grain of rice to life size. It was so awesome.