Meet the Couple With a Collection of 500 Nativities

Roger and Marguerite Sullivan of Washington, D.C. take their crèche collection to a whole new level, with over 500 crèches from 150 countries around the world. Each one incorporates the culture and history of the place it was created. And for the Sullivans, each one holds a memory of discovery, travel, and family tradition.


Roger, who worked for the World Bank, and Marguerite, who worked for the State Department, both had the opportunity to travel all around the globe due to their work assignments. Their crèche collection first began more than forty years ago with a crèche from Bolivia. Roger picked it out for Marguerite on one of his initial work trips to Latin America. He was astounded by the unique and varied crèches that he saw in all the town markets across the region and decided he had to bring one home to show his wife. Marguerite was ecstatic about the beautiful crèche. From then on, they made it a tradition to always bring home a unique crèche from their travels.   Now that the Sullivans are retired and travel less, their tradition is to display about 100 of their 500 crèches around their home during the holidays. It has even become somewhat of a neighborhood attraction every year.     Last Christmas, they loaned part of their collection to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington as part of a special exhibit there. The exhibit was carefully curated with selections from their collection that demonstrates the expansive range of materials and artistic creativity found in these unique international crèches. Most notably, the exhibit included a thimble crèche from Spain, a wire crèche from Slovakia, and cast iron crèche from Albania, and a newspaper crèche from the Philipeans.   Part of the fun associated with collecting crèches from around the world are the stories about finding and acquiring them. The couple recalls one creche from Lithuania that was so heavy that they had to buy a bigger, stronger suitcase to transport it home. They also ended up having to purchase an extra plane ticket to get it back to the States. In many countries, crèches weren’t readily available in the markets like in Latin America. In these instances, the Sullivans would go to the local parish and ask the priest if they sell crèche. Often, they did. If they didn’t, they would at least connect them with a local artist that did. These local artists were often quite poor and were surprised to receive the request from a foreigner.   The Sullivans feel that their collection helps them connect with other Christians around the world. Unified by a special symbol of faith, they hoped by sharing their collection, they can help others to also feel at one with a global community of believers and strengthen their faith during the holidays.   [embed][/embed]