by Karen Koerner
In the middle of the commercialized Christmas season, residents of Salem can pause to celebrate a “Silent Night, Holy Night,” thanks to the commitment of retired dairy farmers Stu and Judy Gadbois. The couple organizes a living nativity and carol sing in their barn each year, and they invite area residents to join them. The free event will begin at 5 pm Sunday, Dec. 17 at Maegog Farm, at the corner of Highway 82 and routes 354 and 82 in Salem.
“I started it for my grandkids because I wanted them to know Christmas is more than shopping at the mall,” Judy said. She is planning the 28th living nativity now, with her family and with help from neighbors and her church, the Congregational Church of Salem. Members of the Salem Volunteer Fire Department also help. Stu and Judy’s granddaughter, Rachel Crafton, and her husband, Casey Crafton, will portray Mary and Joseph this year, and their infant son, Knox, gets the honor of being Baby Jesus.
Guests are invited to sit on bales of hay in the barn to enjoy the presentation. Members of the Gadbois family read the Christmas story while family members or neighbors portray shepherds, the three kings, and angels. Music is part of the presentation, as family members sing and play some carols, and all attendees join in other familiar carols. The Congregational Church Choir also sings a selection. The family’s great-grandchildren contribute to the evening by singing “Away in the Manger.” The evening ends with hot cider and cupcakes. “It’s Jesus’s birthday cake,” Judy said.
Judy laughed at the memory of the first year the family held the nativity. “The very first year we were going to do it, my aunts thought no one would show up.” Even that first year, 200 people enjoyed the presentation. Stu and Judy have three children, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, and all enjoy the annual tradition.
The Maegog Farm Living Nativity will go on rain or shine, Judy said. “Even if it’s our family singing carols, we’ll do it,” she said.