.- A Catholic university in Dayton, Ohio is displaying a unique Nativity scene complete with wise men, shepherds, the town butcher and even government spies.
The University of Dayton has announced that its annual display of crèches—which this year contains 30 different scenes—will showcase a huge 130-piece village from Czechoslovakia dating from the 1850s.
Father Johann Roten, S.M., director of the International Marian Research Institute and an expert on Nativity displays, explained the origins of the Czechoslovakian centerpiece, including the mysterious spies.
"The government forbid people from having these scenes in their homes," he said. "So because chimney sweeps could get into everyone's homes to clean chimneys, the sweeps were recruited to look inside the homes for hidden scenes.”
"Including the sweeps in the scene was really a political-religious statement about the government," he added.Since acquiring the set earlier this year, Fr. Roten related that volunteers have worked many hours cleaning and restoring the figures and buildings.
Fr. Roten also spoke about the significance of the “strong bond between culture and religion,” that can be found in Nativity scenes. The value of crèches is that they demonstrate this bond in a highly visible, accessible way, by telling the Christmas story in the symbols and through the people of individual cultures, he said.
The display will be open to the public beginning on November 28 and admission is free. For more information please visit www.udayton.edu/mary.