Woman collects thousands of nativity scenes

Every year, she opens her home to the public

(Credit: CNN/WCAX)

(CNN) – Shirley Squires gets a lot of visitors this time of year. After a quick look around her Guilford home, it’s easy to understand why.

Squires collects nativity scenes, which include Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all the rest in the manger that Christians throughout the world put on display for Christmas.

But this is no ordinary display. It’s Squires’ passion, and admittedly, a bit of an obsession following the death of her husband and son in the early 1990’s due to separate health issues.

Squires said, “They died at Christmas time, so it gave a real meaning of Christmas and helped to get through the holidays better.”

It was then that her collection started.

She tries not to buy nativity scenes any more, but friends give them as gifts. If she sees one at a yard sale, she has trouble passing it up. Squires now has around 1,400 of all shapes and sizes, including ones from 55 different countries.

It takes her three months to set them up, covering nearly every inch of her house and a room in the garage specially built for them.

Squires noted, “I get part way through putting them up and I think, oh, all this work. Is it worth it?  But it is because just the joy that everybody gets out of it.”

That’s because they are not just for her. Every year, she opens her home to the public to take a look around as well.

Squires explained, “At least 200 every year, and the last two years I have had St. Michael’s Catholic school kids. They come in five different groups.”

While each manger is different, Squires says they all have the same meaning, which she willingly shares with friends and complete strangers.

Squires said, “Some of them have stayed as long as 2.5 hours and they have come back more than once in the same year to look at it. Just to see the expressions on their faces. They are just overjoyed.”

If you are wondering if she has a favorite, her Fontanini set from Italy is at the top of the list. There are almost 200 pieces, which takes over her entire bedroom.

But, big or small, every set has just one baby Jesus.

Squires concluded, “It tells us really who the most important person is in our life is: Jesus.”

The true meaning of Christmas, she says, which in this house is impossible to miss.