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Aspinwall man's nativity collection started with gift from daughter

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Aspinwall resident Joe Giuffre sits beside one of his favorite nativities designed by Thomas Kinkade.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Joe Giuffre sits in room with some of his 170 nativity scenes that he has collected over many years.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
One of the many unique nativities made from ceramic displayed on handmade shelving for the holiday season at the home of Joe Giuffre in Aspinwall.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Displayed on shelves surrounded with fresh foilage are Jim Shore handmade wooden nativities. Seen in center is a collectable titled ' Santas First Visit.'

It started in 1995 when Joe Giuffre's daughter went to the Philippines to see the Pope for World Youth Day. She brought her father back a small nativity scene for him to display.

That gift spawned a collection that now includes 170 models of the nativity that fills the Giuffre's Aspinwall home.

Giuffre, a council member who will take over as mayor next year, began collecting nativity scenes from antique stores and flea markets.

“A lot of them are gifts from people when they heard I was collecting,” Giuffre said.

The collection includes sets for children featuring Peanuts and VeggieTales characters. There are scenes with snowmen as well as nativity settings from different cultures.

This year Giuffre converted an old fish tank his son used to use into a display case surrounded by ornaments with nativity scenes.

“We never took it down so I used the fish tank this year and stuck one in there,” Giuffre said.

The oldest in his collection is a 60-year-old set that was passed down to him by his father-in-law.

The nativity has always been a special part of Giuffre's Christmas celebration.

“I always had a plastic one I put out at my mother's,” he said.

An extension to their home gave Giuffre more room to display the collection.

“At one time I didn't have the room to do this but after we put this addition on, then we did,” Giuffre said.

Setting up the display takes about three days, he said. Over the years Giuffre has gotten into a routine to get them up and down with little hassle.

“When I put them away all the ones on one shelf will go in one box,” Giuffre said.

Giuffre looks at the collection as a nice way to celebrate Christmas.

“It's become a hobby and a nice tradition,” he said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513, or tmcgee@tribweb.com.

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