Follow the Star: World Nativities


Daily 12:00 to 4:30 PM | CLOSED December 16, 17, 24, and 25

Admission: Donations Welcome

Glencairn Museum’s fifth annual exhibition of Nativities from around the world includes dozens of sets on loan from the renowned Mepkin Abbey collection in South Carolina; the unveiling of an elaborate traditional Presepio handmade by professional artists Karen Loccisano and R. Michael Palan; and a large rotating German Christmas pyramid by Christian Ulbricht. This year we will exhibit 34 sets from 15 countries. Artistic settings for the Nativities have been created by Bryn Athyn artisan Kathleen Glenn Pitcairn.

For many Christians the Nativity scene is a meaningful expression of religious faith, providing a compelling visual focus during the Christmas season. Christians around the world have adapted the Nativity scene to represent their own national, regional, and local cultures. Nativities are often crafted from whatever materials are locally available, such as clay, grass, cornhusks, bark, gourds, and even coconuts.

In the 1920s Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn commissioned a large three-part Nativity for their home by craftsmen from the Bryn Athyn Studios. It has been displayed annually at Glencairn ever since the building was completed in 1939. In the 1950s they commissioned a similar Nativity for the Eisenhower family, which was placed beside the Christmas tree in the East Room of the White House. In 2009 Glencairn Museum began an ongoing initiative to collect three-dimensional Nativity scenes for our annual exhibition, Follow the Star: World Nativities. The Museum’s permanent collection features outstanding examples of Nativity art, including paintings, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, and stained glass windows, many dating to the medieval period.

This year Glencairn is pleased to be exchanging Nativities with Mepkin Abbey. The Abbey, established on the site of Mepkin Plantation, South Carolina, is a community of Roman Catholic Trappist monks. Mepkin Abbey launched their first Crèche Festival in 2002, and the popular annual event is now acclaimed as a “Lowcountry holiday tradition.”

Read all about Follow the Star: World Nativities in this issue of Glencairn Museum News.

The Museum has created a special website to provide visitors to the Nativities exhibition with additional cultural, historical, and art historical information: Do You See What I See? Imagery in Nativity Scenes.

This year Glencairn will be offering a special 45-minute holiday tour, "Christmas in the Castle," through January 5th. Experience Nativity art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Stops include the Great Hall, Upper Hall, Tower, Chapel, Master Bedroom, and select galleries. The tour also reveals how Christmas was celebrated in Glencairn when it was the private home of the Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn family (1940s to 1970s). Artifacts and historic photos will help to answer the question, “How do you celebrate Christmas in a 20th century castle?” The whole family will enjoy this tour!