Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

In many Catholic homes, one finds at least one Nativity set displayed during Advent and the Christmas season. It might be a family heirloom or a wedding gift or a set bought during travels overseas or one made from a shoe box and construction paper.

At Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville, one will find all of those — and nearly 250 more — as the parish hosts its 10th annual “No Room at the Inn” event, Dec. 1-3.

According to Martha “Marty” O’Keefe, who described herself as “the official countdown person” for the all-volunteer event, the “variety is endless.” During the decade, there have been 323 exhibitors with displays from 69 countries.

“We try to get as many new ones as we can,” she said. “About 40 percent are new each year. It’s an ever-changing exhibit.”

According to O’Keefe, the Nativities are constructed from a variety of materials, e.g., beads, crystals, and Coke bottles, and loaned to the exhibit from parishioners, collectors, and people from throughout the area who become aware of this display.

“It’s amazing where people reach out and find us,” she said.

The weekend begins with a gala on Friday night. For a $25 advanced ticket, ($30 at the door), participants are treated to food, wine, live and silent auctions, and an opportunity to view the display of Nativity sets.

Proceeds from that event represent the bulk of the $150,000 “No Room at the Inn” has raised for organizations that help the homeless and those in danger of losing their homes. CARITAS, Hanover Safe Place, Ashland Supportive Housing, Mechanicsville Churches Emergency Functions, and Safe Harbor are among the beneficiaries. Last year’s event raised more than $32,000.

On Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., admission to the display is $5 for adults, $1 for children. On Saturday morning, children are invited to participate in a variety of activities, including dressing up in 70 Nativity-related costumes. While the main display has a “no touch” policy, there are Nativity sets that children can touch during the Saturday morning activities.

For O’Keefe, a highlight each year is seeing how the birth of Christ is depicted in different ways.

“Two years ago, we had a Nativity from a refugee family that included a painting and the 3-D figurines. It was the only pregnant Mary at the door of the inn I’ve seen,” she said. “The family said when they came to the United States, there was no room at the inn for them.”

Further information is available at or (804) 730-7980.