Nativity collector celebrates year-round

By Helena Rodriquez: PNT Staff Writer

Christmas is a daily event inside of the home and office of Margie Tarango. The avid nativity collector has the most famous scene from “The Greatest Story Ever Told” on year-round display.

“This is the true meaning of Christmas,” Tarango said, pointing to a shelf full of nativities adorning her office inside of the Portales Municipal Schools Administration Building where Tarango serves as the administrative assistant for personnel. Tarango estimates that she has around 30 nativity scenes in her office alone and somewhere between 30 and 40 nativities at home, some of which she purchased herself, and others which have been given to her as gifts by family and friends since she started collecting nativities a decade ago.

“When people walk into my office, they are not so much in shock, but they do comment about my nativities being out all year,” Tarango said. “The nativities serve as reminders that God is a year-round thing, not a one time thing.”

According to the Merriam Online Dictionary, nativity means “the process or circumstances of being born or “the place of origin,” however, the word has become more commonly associated with the specific birth of Jesus.

“The baby Jesus in the nativity means to me that he is our savior and he was born to save us. These nativities remind us all that he died for us on the cross,” Tarango added. “We need to remember that Christmas is not all about Santa Claus. To kids it is. But as you grow, you realize what it’s all about.”

Tarango’s unique collection of nativities range from a $10 discount store model to a delightful, yet pricey Southwest Native American scene. The collection also includes a Hispanic and African-American nativity as well as a Spanish nativity given to her by former Portales Schools Superintendent, Dr. James Holloway, who bought the set in Santa Fe.

In addition, Tarango’s nativities include a small wooden tropical-theme nativity with a palm tree which she bought in San Francisco and is said to have been hand-carved in Jerusalem. A very unique nativity, a tiny scene embedded inside of a white egg-shaped figure, was given to her by her daughter and son-in-law, Missy and Ruben Tellez, who bought the nativity while on their honeymoon in San Antonio, Texas.

Another of Tarango’s nativities is a one-of-a-kind, 3-D design inside of a glass-plated gold frame. It was given to her by another daughter, Mindy. The figures in the 3D nativity can roll from one side to the other. Then there’s the nativity in a teepee given to Tarango by Joletha Heflin, and a crystal nativity that lights up with different colors and sits on Tarango’s desk. It was given to her by Linda Baca, a retired school teacher.

Tarango’s collection includes another unique, clay nativity with faded red and black paint, given to her by Veronica Peña, a nativity which Peña said was in her family for years. Tarango also has snow and glitter globe nativities as well as nativity ornaments and even a folding nativity.

Tarango said her grandchildren tend to favor the two or three musical nativities she has which slowly rotate and play tunes. One music box nativity plays “The Little Drummer Boy” while some of the figures move.

Tarango said nativities are an easy collectible, saying, “They are easy to find and you can go from very inexpensive to expensive.” She noted that one of her favorite sets is one she got from Dollar General for $10. She said she was drawn to the vibrant colors used to paint the figures. She added, “I try to get each of my four daughters a nativity scene for Christmas every year.”

The only thing Tarango’s nativity collection is lacking is an outdoor nativity in front of her home. She hopes to take care of this, someday, by having her husband, Manuel, build her an outdoor nativity of concrete, similar to a santuario or altar like other homes have. Tarango said she will leave her future outdoor nativity on permanent display as well.

Tarango said people have complimented her on how nicely her office is decorated. However, Tarango pointed out, “These are not decorations to me. They are a part of me and what I feel. At some places, people dread going to work. As for me, I love being in my office. I love working in here. I feel real secure and it gives me peace.”