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Brent Harder
A Polish nativity was part of an international creche exhibit at Follow the Star.

The first weekend of December, almost 5,000 people visited Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., to see the living re-creation of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. The pageant, shown six times for three nights in a row, featured live actors, including a real baby, live animals and even a flying angel.

The Follow the Star Living Nativity, sponsored by the Santa Margarita California Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, celebrated its 15th year with clear skies and record crowds. The 20-minute running time of each presentation added to its popularity with children.

“My favorite part of assisting with Follow the Star is to watch the excitement and anticipation on the faces of the children," said Jeffrey Shields, director of public affairs for the Santa Margarita California Stake. "And then to follow with a cup of hot chocolate afterwards and getting to pet the donkey makes it better yet!”

“People seemed to want to talk when they entered," said Lori George, lead greeter and host. "I heard comments like ‘Thank you so much for doing this’ or ‘I enjoy coming every year.’ The No. 1 comment this year was ‘I’m so delighted that the crèches are back!’”

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The crèche exhibit inside the local Mormon chapel displayed more than 300 nativity sets depicting Mary and Joseph in the manger from all around the world. Children’s hands were kept busy with a scavenger hunt to find certain crèche displays within the exotic presentation.

Brian Andre, founder and artistic director of the pageant, said, “Follow the Star is an effort to keep Christ in Christmas, to help our children and grandchildren never forget that it is because of the birth of a baby that we have Christmas at all.”

Karen Lake lives in Southern California and has served as the media director for the Santa Margarita Stake for five years. She has written and published over 500 articles and when she isn't writing she is performing or teaching voice lessons.