Christmas Keepsakes From Around The World
Frequent travelers often collect keepsakes from their destinations: Christmas ornaments, postcards, and other items. Once friends learn of the traveler’s passion, they tend to add to the collection. Grace and Carl Hittle in Fort Collins have traveled all over the world and collected nativity sets.
Grace, who turned 91 on December 15, moved with Carl eight months ago to a retirement community after selling their home of almost twenty years. Her ninety-piece collection, from living/traveling in other countries or from friends, remained stored in boxes. Once an acquaintance told me about the collection, Grace and a nephew unpacked the boxes and displayed the nativities all over her great room for me to view.
Carl’s job of teaching agriculture practices to less developed countries took him, and occasionally Grace, to one-day stays in sixty-three countries. Other times they spent weeks, months, or even years in one place.
Grace and Carl lived in Costa Rica off and on for a combined total of seven years. While there, Grace admired hand carved wooden nativity figures customarily painted gold and white. She asked an artist to leave the figures in the natural cedar wood and promised to buy it. The purchase counted as her tenth in her then small nativity collection. Grace began to collect seriously.
Of her ninety nativities, several stand out with special meaning or interest. They range in size from the less than one-inch square metal pendent she wears around her neck to the eleven piece Lladro set given them by a son. The collection consists of wooden sculptures, handmade collages, triptychs, crochet clothed figures, and porcelain to name a few.
Some years ago, their son found four Lladro pieces at a good price and gifted the set to his parents. Each year, he has added another item. The pendent was a gift from a Newcomer member after Grace and Carl settled in Fort Collins around 1993.
A favorite of Grace’s is the Hallmark paperboard cutouts, which have been in the family since the 1960s. Last year her First United Methodist Church displayed the piece along with the Lladro set during the Christmas season. She says her son hopes to inherit the Hallmark cutouts rather than the Lladro.
Around 1987 in Nepal, she bought a nativity in the hotel gift shop. Several sets from Krakow were gifts from a daughter or friends. Other sets originated in China, Mexico, Australia, Vietnam, as well as some from the United States like the hinged relief of angel, Holy Family, wise men, and shepherds she purchased in Estes Park.
Another favorite was handmade in 1976 by Grace and her Sri Lanka household staff. She taught the maids to make a collage from fabric scraps gleaned from a man’s sarong, Christmas wrapping paper, and a woven place mat. Glued to a piece of blue fabric, she hung it without a frame until she returned to the states.
The tented numbers and identification cards help Grace track when and where each set was purchased. She also lists them on her computer. Viewing her well-documented keepsakes was like visiting a museum.