Why more than 500 Nativities fill the Rushville home of Regina Ehrhardt

Nativities rest on nearly every flat surface in Regina Ehrhardt's Rushville home. She displays them throughout the year. The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems

RUSHVILLE — Christmas isn’t a season for Regina Ehrhardt. It’s a way of life.

The Rushville woman’s home is filled with Nativity scenes in the form of pillows, throws, table cloths and runners, plates, wall hangings, water globes, ornaments, and a cookie jar, in addition to some more traditional displays. During a recent visit she was also wearing a fleece shirt and necklace with Nativities depicted on them.

Regina Ehrhardt stands by one of the more unusual Nativities that fill her Rushville home. She has 500 — so far. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

In all, she has 500 Nativities — and counting.

“I have them written down and tried to put the dates I received them as gifts,” Miss Ehrhardt told The Catholic Post. “Of course, I’m going to have to get rid of them some day. My family does not look forward to that!”

It all started in 1962 with a music box given to her by Father Robert Reynolds, pastor at St. Rose in Rushville from 1962 to 1971 and again from 1992 to 1996. Gold in color, it has the figures of Mary, Jesus, Joseph and an angel on top and plays “Silent Night.”

The musical gift was especially appropriate since it was Father Reynolds who recruited her to play the organ for Mass.

“I love to sing, but I never took any lessons,” said Miss Ehrhardt, a lifelong member of St. Rose Parish. “When he came, I took some lessons. He would send me to music workshops.”

She got involved in liturgical ministry and helped to plan music. While she no longer plays the organ, she still serves as a cantor from time to time.

“They haven’t told me to quit yet,” she said with an easy laugh, something she does often.

MORE EACH YEAR

When she was a child, Miss Ehrhardt always looked forward to when her family would put out their Nativity. Collecting 500 of them was not something she planned, however.

“Someone gets wind of what you like and all the gifts come,” she said. “I have bought several myself, of course.”

Regina Ehrhardt of Rushville holds the first Nativity she received, a gift from Father Robert Reynolds, pastor of St. Rose Parish, in 1962. It is a music box and plays “Silent Night.” (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Most years she receives between eight and 12 Nativities as gifts, and notes that now they’re getting smaller. “For a while I was getting so many,” she recalled.

“I have a friend who sent me several from foreign countries, but she’s always sent little ones,” Miss Ehrhardt said.

Some of the countries represented include Italy, Portugal, Peru, Colombia, Haiti, Lichtenstein, Vietnam, and Germany, with sets from Triberg and Oberammergau. Some are made of olive wood from the Holy Land; another is made of ash from Mount St. Helens in Washington.

She displays the Nativities all year long and while dusting may seem like a daunting task, Miss Ehrhardt said she doesn’t mind doing it.

“When I’m dusting them I see each one, separate, and remember who gave it to me or where I got it,” she told The Post.

Miss Ehrhardt has also received many rosaries as gifts. These remind her of her father, who loved it.

“Every time we’d get in the car we’d start praying the rosary,” she said. That included the drive to St. Mary School in Mount Sterling, 17 miles away, and on vacation.

NATIVITIES SHARED

Miss Ehrhardt doesn’t keep her Nativities to herself. The children in religious education classes at St. Rose come to visit her just about every year and in addition to exploring the different scenes, they read about the birth of Jesus and sing Christmas carols.

Members of the St. Rose Altar and Rosary Society also meet at her house to see what’s new and catch up.

Displayed here are just a few of the 500 Nativities that grace Regina Ehrhardt’s home in Rushville, where she seeks to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Miss Ehrhardt has belonged to the Altar and Rosary Society for many years, serving as president and secretary. Last year she relinquished her role as longtime treasurer.

Her business expertise comes from working with her father at the family’s hardware store on the square in Rushville. When he died, she continued to run the store with her niece until it closed in 2001.

“The store was there 69 years,” Miss Ehrhardt said. “It was the only job I ever had. Dad expected all of us to work in the store and we did.”

When her mother worked at the store, she would take little Regina along in the stroller.

“That was my second home, for sure,” said Miss Ehrhardt, the youngest of five.

Instead of a Nativity, her family chipped in to buy a lift chair for her cozy living room this year. You never know, though.

She’s got the list by her chair, ready for a new listing.

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