The morning of Nov. 26 was busy with setting up tables and spreading blue and white lights before people started bringing in their nativity sets large and small, expensive and home made.

A silver nativity at Holy Lutheran Church, Cherryville, was dedicated in memory of Susie Olewine by the Szoke family. That was only one of the 500 expected. Last year there were over 300 and when the project began 11 years ago there were 45 on display.

Sharyn Kratzer, coordinator, said they come in all shapes and sizes and made of various materials. Some are old family treasures and some were recently purchased or made.

"It started as a project of the Evangelism Committee. Youth and members of other committees help," said Kratzer. The church averages 400 to 600 visitors in the two days the display is open. People have come from five states.

There is a children's activity center with a puppet show and crafts. The youth create a living nativity.

Many of the purchased nativities are brought to the church in their original boxes, some of which show the battering of years of use.

"It's a lot of work but I love it. Long before November I start thinking of ideas to make it better. When you see people's faces light up, it is worth it," Kratzer said.

Loretta Weil unwraps a figure for her nativity and finds it was wrapped in a 1995 newspaper with a story about Mayor William Heydt of Allentown, one of the special treasures found during setting up nativities.

Kratzer has several nativities displayed, one of which her husband claims credit for giving to her as a gift.

Debbie Gable said it took her one month to crochet all the pieces of her nativity.

Dolores Reenock was setting up two nativities because the figures were packed in the same box. She had a total of seven including the two tiniest ones. They get set up at home after the Holy Lutheran display, but the baby is not placed in the manger until Christmas day.

She said there are seldom any that are the same.

Maryann Moravek said her nativity was for grandsons Daniel, 3, and James, 4. The stable is made of ordinary blocks that children will play with and then the figures are added. She said it is out all year for the boys to play with and she worried that some of the pieces may have been lost - but everything was there. It was made in Germany.

Barbara Tobisch placed candles on one of the eight nativities she brings to be displayed. Among those left at home is one from Oberammergau, Germany. It is carved in wood, and she is proud of it.

Evelyn Kohler of Treichlers painted her own wooden set, and also brought some from other countries. She said she was going to a painting class provided by Betty Seip, whose brother cuts out the designs for the students to paint.

Richard Ruch exhibits a two-thirds life-size nativity and then takes it to his home church after the Holy Lutheran display. The baby is "the reason for the season."