Dec 18, 2009 11:59 AM by Dave Delozier
It is one of her earliest memories of Christmas: A nativity scene that her father built.
As the years passed and Christmases came and went, the one constant was that nativity and the memories brought with it.
So when Julie Hudec grew up and had a family of her own, nativity scenes became a big part of their life.
She remembers sitting with her children more than 30 years ago and painting plaster nativity pieces.
That nativity still decorates their home today.
It is not alone.
In 1996, Hudec went to a collector's show of nativity scenes.
"We saw the nativities and I said, 'What a neat thing to collect,'" Hudec said. "Then my daughter, for Christmas that year, gave us one called 'Christmas in Bethlehem' and I said, 'I guess I'm a collector.'"
Over the years she has kept a watchful eye out for nativities of every type. She looks for them at garage sales, online and at shows. Her collection includes nativities made of everything from wood to metals and glass to ceramics.
What each have in common is the memory that brings to Hudec.
"Definitely a memory for each and every one of them," Hudec said. "Whether I bought it at a garage sale or whether I got it on eBay from a lady who was out of work and said, 'Please love it,' and I said, 'I can't do anything but love all of my nativities.'"
In the years since, she began her collection, the only thing more impressive than the variety of nativities is the quantity. To date her collection numbers 1,045 nativities.
"It is just a passion with me," Hudec said. "My children call it an obsession, but I still call it a passion."
She sets up the nativities in her home to be viewed between Thanksgiving and New Year. It takes her three months to set up all the nativities and putting them away takes longer. One year, she wasn't able to complete storing all of them away for the season until May.
While she is constantly looking for new nativities to add to her collection, one is noticeably absent: that first nativity her father made by hand. Each year she takes it to her mother.
"Because my dad made it and my dad's been gone for 25 years.
So my mother needs to have some memories too," Hudec said.