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The building in this nativity scene was created in 1947 in Quebec by Reg Duval’s father. It is now a treasured part of Christmas for Duval and his family.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Most people probably have old Christmas decorations that have been passed down in their families.

However, very few will have a nativity scene like the one owned by Hay River’s Reg Duval for over 70 years.

“This was made by my dad in 1947,” he said of the nativity scene.

Duval, who was 11 years old at the time, remembers helping his late father, Eugene Duval, build it in Quebec.

“I went and cut the bulrushes for the roof,” recalled the 84-year-old, who added the sides are made of willows.

His father actually made a nativity scene for each of his seven children.

“This is the way that my dad wanted us to remember,” said Duval.

The gift was given to him as a child, but it was also to be a wedding gift when he married.

“It’s a good keepsake,” said Duval’s wife, Faye Eliason. “It’s beautiful.”

“It brings back good memories of his parents,” she added. “I never met his father, but I knew his mom very well and all his siblings. And they each have one, the seven of them.”

Duval’s late mother, Lydia Duval, obtained the figurines for the nativity scene from a church. The figurines include the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the three wise men, two lambs, a cow, a camel, a shepherd and an angel.

Eliason said the nativity scene is one of the first Christmas decorations that come out every year.

“I just love it,” she said. “I think that was just such a wonderful, beautiful thing they did, a gift they gave to their seven children. And those of us that believe in the Christian religion, it means very much to us at Christmastime.”

Duval was asked what the nativity scene means to him.

“Everything,” he replied, explaining it helps him remember his family and the old times.

Duval noted the nativity scene will eventually be passed down to his son, Gene Duval.

“When we get too old to unpack it for Christmas, we’ll give it to him,” said the elder Duval.

His son recalls the nativity scene from when he was a child.

“Growing up, I always remember it being underneath the tree for Christmas,” he said. “It’s always been there. It’s just one of the decorations that always comes out at Christmas.”

Reg Duval, who has lived in Hay River since 1969, noted the nativity scene has never been damaged over the years, even when it was taken along when the family moved to Alberta in 1948.

In fact, Eliason noted, “We still have the original box that his mom and dad put it in.”

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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