Don’t just stand outside looking through the window of the Cape County History Center at 102 South High Street, across from the old courthouse in Jackson. Open the door and see what Executive Director Carla Jordan ranks as one of the best of nearly a decade of Christmas tree collections.
When you step inside, pick up a printed guide to the History Center Nativity Walk 2023. I’m using the guide to describe the exhibits you’ll see. The beauty is in the detail, so I’ll concentrate on the stuff you’ll miss if you don’t look closely.
#1 Food Pantry Tree
The doves on this tree were created by our team. You may select a dove to take home with you for $5 that goes to the Jackson Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry.
#2 Spider Tree
This story has numerous versions in Germany and Ukraine. Our tree tells of the Christ-Child’s Christmas Eve visit to a family’s home to leave blessings. The family thoroughly cleaned their home to prepare for the visit. The house spiders wished to see Baby Jesus, too, and scampered up the tree to get a good view, leaving their webs behind them on the tree. Baby Jesus was delighted to see the spiders but did not want the family to find their cleaning efforts for naught. Jesus touched the webs, turning them to silver and gold.
#3 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
This tree’s story is based on the 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was distraught by the loss of his wife in a tragic fire, and his son joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was severely injured.
Upon hearing the Christmas bells ringing on Christmas morning during this dark period, Longfellow found comfort in the bells, and wrote the famous poem, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…peace on Earth, and good will to men.” The poem was first published in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine in 1865, and is now a beloved Christmas carol.
#4 Chrismon – Symbols of Christ Tree
A group of participants met each month for 11 months at our Research Annex with instructor, JoNell Cougill, and they created the ornaments for this tree. Some of the symbols are ancient and some are modern. The Chrismon tradition was renewed and preserved by Frances Spencer, and the women of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia in 1957.
#5 Happy Birthday Jesus
This tree was designed, created, and installed by the PEO-DJ organization.
#6. Topiary Trees with Nativity & Ornaments from the Holy Land
This collection is a gift from the Kenneth White Collection.
#7 Follow the Star
The star tree has been a part of our exhibit for eight years. It is designed and created by the PEO-LA organization.
#8 Mary Tree
The Mary tree is a little lesson in art history. Early Egyptians loved bold blue and pulverized lapis lazuli stones to obtain the pigment for embellishments and art works. For millennia, blue has been a costly hue—at times more prized than gold. Marian blue is a color creating Mary’s elevation in the interpretation of historic art since the 5th century. During the first few centuries after Christ, Mary was often depicted in a red gown or wrapped in a pink mantle. Slowly, blue replaced the artist’s preferred color for Mary.
#9 Donkey Tree
Nearly always depicted as the transport animal for Mary to travel to Bethlehem. The donkey has an important role multiple times in Christian art and literature. We chose to place this dear donkey tree close to Mary.
#10 Joseph Tree
You will see the symbols of Joseph’s carpentry trade. This tree has an authentic Jewish prayer shawl, a yarmulke, and a menorah.
#11 The Wise Men Tree
This story tree tells of the Gentile visitors to the Nativity. This tree represents that the Nativity story is for all people. They followed the star.
#12 Multitude of Angels
One of several “Multitude of Angels” Trees
#13 Sallie Ann Criddle Exhibit
The beautiful doll in this exhibit came home to Jackson after many years traveling the country with descendants of Sallie Ann Criddle. Can you find these tiny treasures in Sallie’s exhibit or in her next-door playroom? A tiny mouse, a tiny Santa, a Christmas postcard, a tiny letter, a tiny book…there are numerous treasures in this display. Take a close look…
#14 Lace Angel Tree
These angels were created by the late Juanita M. Criddle Niswonger. They fly above a Lori Mitchell Nativity.
#15 Miniature Nativity Scene Flat Case
This exhibit case features Nativity scenes from all over the world and other small collections.
#16. Another “Multitude of Angels” Trees
#17. Rosewood Square Grand Piano Nativity
The large ceramic Nativity was created by Vicki Crites Lane, and she created both of the quilts hanging in this exhibit. There is an incredible wreath quilt and one entitled, “Starry, Starry, Night.”
#18 White Feather Tree
Another pretty angel tree.
#19 Child-Like Angels Tree
This tree is adorned with angels from the Bradford Collection.
#20. Shepherd, Sheep, with Messenger Angels
This fun tree exhibits shepherds with their flock and the angels who foretold the story.
#21. Drummer Boy Tree
This tree has many styles of Drummers throughout history. It was designed and installed by JoNell Cougill.
#22. Oh Holy Night Tree
This tree was designed to display a fifty-year collection of Nativity ornaments. The nearby exhibit was designed by Wendy Hayes and Robyn Hosp, who created the background painting.
#23. Oxen Tree
Another tree designed by JoNell Cougill, representing the oxen. Oxen are present in nearly every Nativity. The oxen are a symbol of the 12 Tribes of Israel, depicted on the tree. The oxen also represent strength and power. The yoke artifact was a gift from the Bob and Yvonne Keathley Collection.
#24. Straw Tree
This tree represents the manger straw in the Nativity.
#25. Poinsettia Tree
This red and white tree has poinsettia blooms and cardinals. The poinsettia blooms wild from Mexico to southern Guatemala on Pacific-facing slopes. They were cultivated by the Aztecs for use in traditional medicine and for dye. They are now popular during the Christmas season in the United States where approximately 70 million are sold in a six-week period.
In 16th century Mexico, a legend states that a little girl named, Pepita or Maria, was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias. The 17th century Franciscan monks included poinsettias in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaves are symbols of the Star of Bethlehem. Poinsettias were officially named and brought to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first appointed U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
The cardinals on the tree are symbols for many of us on this team of “Messengers of Loved ones Passed.”