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University of Dayton Nativity Exhibit highlights animals from around the world

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In Western culture, no Nativity scene is complete without a donkey and perhaps a couple of sheep. But when an Australian artist depicts the Nativity, a kangaroo, a koala and a kookaburra gather around the manger.

That’s not unusual. Cultures around the world include familiar animals: warthogs and zebras in African scenes, wolves and polar bears in Native America, monkeys and jaguars in South America.

The University of Dayton’s annual Christmas display of Nativities will highlight that zoological diversity with “At the Manger: And Animals Were There.” It runs from Saturday, Nov. 30, through Sunday, Jan. 26, at Roesch Library, featuring four displays of more than 200 Nativities, also called crèches, drawn from the collection of the University’s Marian Library.

The exhibit opens 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, with an open house for the community. The family-oriented event includes the exhibits, children’s activities, light refreshments, live entertainment, shopping at The Stable Store and even a college football viewing area. The exhibit and the open house are free and open to the public.

According to the Rev. Johann Roten, S.M., Marian Library director of research and special projects, animals at the manger are a reminder of the universality of the birth of Jesus to the whole world — human and nature alike.

“Every year we try to highlight certain aspects of the Nativity,” Roten said. “We thought this exhibit would be an important way to highlight ecology and the natural world and how Jesus asks us to care for nature as he cares for us.”

In addition to children’s activities, the library also offers World Nativity lesson plans prepared by education majors from the University’s School of Education and Health Sciences. Suitable for home-school lessons, church schools and families, the lesson plans for pre-K through 8th grades can be downloaded on the exhibit website. Scout participation patches can be earned by Girl Scouts of Western Ohio for visiting the exhibits.

The Stable Store will feature for sale original, hand-made Nativity-related items created by U.S. artists and global fair-trade artisans. Proceeds support the annual exhibit and provide fair-trade opportunities for artisans around the world. Located on the second floor of Roesch Library, it’s open weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the exhibit and 1 to 5 p.m. weekends through Dec. 22.

The exhibit is the University’s gift to the community during the Christmas season, displaying items from the University’s Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute. The library holds the largest collection in the world of printed materials and other artifacts devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus and includes nearly 3,000 crèches as well as art from around the globe.

How to go:
Exhibit hours vary; for information on exhibits, hours, directions and parking, call 937-229-4234. Guided group tours are available on request by calling 937-229-4214. All campus exhibits are closed Dec. 24-25, Dec. 31 through Jan. 1 and Jan. 20. All events are free and open to the public. 

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