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(Photo: Woodcliff United Calgary/Facebook)

Life-sized Advent calendars and other creative ways churches are celebrating Christmas

These congregations are delighting their communities with these fun events.

By Emma Prestwich

Advent is a busy time for United churches, but some have extra-creative ways to celebrate the holidays. Here are four fun projects or events from across the country. 

Nativity-scene extravaganza

(Photo: Paul Strathdee)

Parkview United Church in Stratford, Ont. invited the public to come and see the more than 500 nativity scenes on display in its sanctuary at the start of the month.

Members of the congregation and the public donated a variety of different nativities for the event, including quilted wall hangings and those made of stained glass and even coal.

Robbie Anderson, a Parkview member who helps organize the display every year, said a past minister's wife came up with the idea as a way to get people thinking about the real focus of the season. "It's kind of calming. It’s non commercial," she said of the exhibit. "We don’t charge for it. We welcome anyone who comes."

12-hour-long Christmas music marathon

(Photo: Central United Church/Facebook)

For the second year in a row, Central United Church in St. Thomas, Ont., has treated members of the congregation and community to 12 straight hours of holiday tunes.

Music director Lauri Ladd said the music marathon raises money to supply the church’s Out of the Cold shelter with groceries. 

But instead of asking attendees to donate, groups who participated in the event, including a ukulele group called the "The Ukes of Hazzard" and the "The Messiah's Misfits" were expected to fundraise.  

Highlights included a 40-strong ukulele group playing "Jingle Bells" and a children's performance in which a six-month-old baby dressed as an angel danced the entire time. 

A comment from a media company that photographed the event proved to Ladd that the church had succeeded at one of its other goals.

"They said they've never felt a welcoming feeling like that in their lives as when they walked in the door and that was exactly what we were going for," she said.

Life-sized advent calendar

(Photo: Woodcliff United Calgary/Facebook)

A church in Calgary found a fun way to bring Christmas joy to their community. Woodcliff United Church created an Advent calendar out of dressers and wardrobes and set it up in a local park, according to the Calgary Herald.

The locked drawers are filled with little treats like candy and Christmas ornaments, and every day from Dec. 1 to 24, the public can visit and see what’s inside.

The church is also using it as an opportunity to collect winter hats and non-perishable food for those in need.

Woodcliff’s children’s ministry coordinator Sheri Bolitho told CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener that each of the drawers has 50 to 75 items, including items handmade by congregants like toques. "This felt like a really small way to make a big difference to the people in our Woodcliff community,” she said.

Tuba concert

(Photo: John Dell)

For more than a decade, the humble tuba has been the star at a Christmas concert in Williams Lake, B.C.

Rocco Catalano, the music director at St. Andrew's United, said some of the holiday tunes have been specifically arranged for the hulking brass instrument, which he calls "beautiful." 

A few euphoniums, which are like small tubas, are also up on stage with the tubas. Now the concert also features a choir and other instruments. 

“We have deigned to let the trumpets and French horns join us," Catalano said.

People in the community know it as the Tuba John concert, named after John Sykes, a beloved local tuba player who often dressed up as Santa Claus. He died in 2013. "He named it after himself, but we kept the name," said Catalano.

Every year, more than 200 people show up for the concert, he said. "Unfortunately we fill up the pews a lot better than we do on Sunday."

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