Friends share nativity scenes with community

By Juliette Coulter

“The Artistry of the Nativity” runs from Nov. 24-Dec. 31.
Photo courtesy of the Dallas Arboretum

Three leading Dallas families have generously loaned their crèche collections to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden to be displayed for the first time ever for “The Artistry of the Nativity,” in the historic DeGolyer House. Guests will see the private collections of Joyce and Larry Lacerte, Lydia and Dan Novakov and a life-size crèche from Mary and Mike Terry. These crèches will be displayed along with the Ray Harrington and the Joe Christian collections that the Arboretum owns. “The Artistry of the Nativity” runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31.

According to Mary Brinegar, Dallas Arboretum president, “This is a unique opportunity to see collections that represent how various cultures around the world have interpreted the nativity scene.”

Each of the 500 crèches are made out of unique materials including clay, Waterford crystal, horns, seeds, cornhusk, glass, adobe, paper-mache, driftwood, porcelain, silver, coconut shells and more. In addition to the crèches, every room in the DeGolyer House will feature other elaborate holiday décor.

Among the largest nativities this year is the Terry’s, and it is normally displayed on their rooftop. Made out of fiberglass, these five- to seven-foot-tall colorful crèches make quite a statement and will be displayed in the outdoor courtyard visible from the library of the DeGolyer House.

Mary Terry said: “Our house is a big box with a metal roof anchored by four tall chimneys at the corners. We have a grass roof over our garage where we put the camels and magi, and we put the holy family and animals on an open balcony over our front door entryway.

“The most unique reaction we’ve received from the display was a man who stopped me and said that he loved that I wore my faith on my sleeve, and they love having it in the neighborhood. We have other neighbors who drive by just to see it. We hope that guests at the Arboretum will enjoy it as much as our neighbors and family have.”

In the historic DeGolyer House, guests will also see the Lacerte and Novakov collections.

Lydia Novakov has been drawn to nativities since she was a child. “When growing up, my mother had an ANRI nativity set, and I loved that piece. When I married Dan, he started buying me one piece from the Boehm collection for each celebration, including my birthday in December. That first one is still my favorite.”

She added, “People know that I collect nativities, so through the years, my friends and my children have given them to me, and those are among the most special ones to me.”

Joyce Lacerte and Lydia Novakov became friends when Joyce moved to Dallas. Both attend the same church and are involved in volunteer activities. For decades, they have traveled together, and those travels have helped them build their collections.

Novakov said, “Joyce and I have collected crèches together on many trips. Everywhere we go, we’re always searching for nativities.” They have found crèches from the Germany Christmas Markets, Italy, Paris, Prague, Budapest, London, Lebanon, Jordan and throughout the United States.

Lacerte added, “Whenever we go to a new place, one of our goals is to find a crèche that represents that region.” She spoke of a recent trip to Santa Fe where she purchased one made by Native Americans. When her children travel, they often bring home unique ones they’ve found for her.” I love them all, but the ones of greatest significance are those that come from family and friends.”

Lacerte’s favorite crèches include one from the island of Murano made of blown glass and another one from Belgium from the 1600s, which she bought in England.

In addition to the very first one her husband bought her, Novakov loves the ones from the Vatican, the driftwood ones from Santa Fe, the metal ones from Germany and the many from Russia made out of various materials.

She also has fond memories of a Madame Alexander nativity scene because it reminds her of the dolls her mother and grandmother gave her when she was growing up. “I love that one, and now my granddaughters love to look at it, too.”

Novakov said, “Nativities tell the story of our lives, starting with the one that Dan gave me, because they represent where we’ve been and the different times of our lives. I hope our children and grandchildren remember the meaning of Christmas as they look at them, too.”

Lacerte concluded, “In seeing our collection, I would love people to appreciate the different cultures in the world and how they interpret the same story with different materials and artistry.”

“The Artistry of the Nativity” is open daily in the DeGolyer House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open on Wednesday evenings 6 to 9 p.m. from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31.

Visit with Santa Wednesday evenings from 6-9 p.m. in the Crape Myrtle Allee from Nov. 14-Dec. 19. In special celebration, Restaurant DeGolyer will be open for reservation-only dinners. Seating is limited.

While visiting, guests are invited to stroll through the spectacular outdoor exhibit, the 12 Days of Christmas, featuring a dozen 25-foot-tall, Victorian style gazebos representing the beloved Christmas carol, displayed throughout the 66-acre garden.

The 12 Days of Christmas at Night exhibit is open every weekend, enhanced with 500,000 holiday lights, illuminating the trees and intricate gazebos.

To purchase tickets or to make dinner reservations, call 214-515-6615 or visit the website