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Eminence resident has almost 200 nativity scenes

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By Matt Goldman

Staff writer and photographer For Beulah “Bootie” Payton, the Christmas season starts the day after Halloween, Nov. 1. That’s when she puts up her first nativity scene. It’s a more traditional one that’s roughly three feet in length. It’s adorned with gold tinsel garland and sits tastefully atop a wooden hutch in the living room of her Eminence home. To some, it may seem a bit early to start decorating but when there are nearly 200 more to place, the sooner the better. Payton a lifelong Eminence native, is the proud owner of 186 nativity scenes. She began seriously collecting them roughly 30 years ago when she decided to replace one which her mother had given her that was beginning to look a bit worn. “It will always be one of my favorites,” Payton said. “It was just getting to look a little old and raggedy. So I got another one. I got some more and then people just started giving them to me.” And it shows. Since she has so many, it’s difficult to keep track of where all of the nativities came from and who gave them, but the she can recall the one she received most recently. It’s from her daughter and it sits on the stand next to an easy chair in her living room. Aside from the sheer volume of nativity scenes, what is most striking about Payton’s collection is the variety. Accompanying the more traditional styles, she also has nativity broaches, one made out of gourds, nativity lamps, nativity tree decorations, nativity puzzles, nativity pop up books for her grandchildren, nativity electrical outlets and light switch covers, nativity bed spreads and table cloths as well as a nativity scene puzzle. Some of them she even hand crafted by herself. In addition, Payton also maintains an unparalleled amount of culturally diverse nativity scenes. There is a navajo indian nativity scene, one from Mexico, one from Jamaica and another from Israel. In each and every room of Payton’s, house, there is at least one nativity scene. She has so many that the aformentioned hutch, normally home to nonseasonal keepsakes and glassware must be cleared out when Christmas approaches. “We have to put all of that in the basement,” she said. All of them have some kind of meaning for me. It just shows how generous and loving people are” Payton and her husband Doug, former owner of Doug’s Hardware love all holidays, however, Christmas is their favorite for what it represents and the quality time they get to spend with their two daughters and their grandchildren. Payton’s nativity scenes also help her remember what’s important this time of year as well. “If I’m out shopping and people are being rude, I like to come home, sit down in my living room, light up the tree and look at my nativity scenes,” she said. “They help me remember what Christmas is really about,” she said. E-mail us about this article at news@hclocal.com