Donations needed for Nativity scene, menorah

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 6, 2018

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MADISON HEIGHTS — This year, there are some holiday decorations notably absent from their usual posts in front of the Madison Heights Public Library, near the intersection of 13 Mile and John R roads.

The Nativity scene and carolers are among the missing decorations. Also absent is the menorah of Hanukkah, as well as two snowflakes, a buck and a doe.

“The Nativity scene and the menorah — we’re equal opportunity here — have been damaged over the years. They just weren’t going to survive another season out in the elements,” explained Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett. “Simply replacing them is not a cheap proposition.”

According to figures from the Madison Heights Department of Public Services, a comparable replacement for the Nativity scene with Joseph, Mary, Jesus, an angel and a stable would cost $6,175.

“Wise men and shepherds don’t come cheap these days,” quipped Corbett.

Replacing the caroler figures would cost another $6,455. The menorah would cost $1,400, while the two snowflakes would cost $610. The buck and doe would cost $975.

The current decorations are in rough shape, Corbett said. The supports on them are weak from years of being battered by the wind. Their paint is fading and peeling off. Water has soaked into them so that the wood no longer holds new paint. The Nativity scene was purchased 14 years ago.  

“I mean, in the past, these things were out there right before Thanksgiving until usually the first week of January, so they caught the worst of what Michigan winters have to offer,” Corbett said.

Joseph Vitali, director of the Madison Heights Department of Public Services, said that the city does not have the money to replace the ornaments.

He also said that the city would appreciate an individual or business donating replacements, although he acknowledged that many businesses already donate to the city’s Holiday Tree Lighting, without which the annual event would not be possible.

“It is also important to mention that as a display erected by city government on city property, (the decorations) must represent a general holiday display, with multiple expressions of faith and nonreligious decorations of the holiday season,” Vitali said.

Madison Heights City Councilwoman Roslyn Grafstein said that if more people donate to the city’s Holiday Tree Lighting fund, the additional money may be able to help replace the ornaments.

“Madison Heights is a community of different faiths, where we are all free to celebrate our individual traditions,” Grafstein said. “I look forward to seeing the new and improved holiday displays, and I appreciate the donations being made to the tree lighting account so that we can replace and repair the decorations.”

Grafstein added that maybe next year the city could use the display to showcase local talent. She envisions a contest where the top winners would have their works displayed at City Hall while the runner-ups would be exhibited elsewhere in the city.

“I expect there are artists in the community who would be interested in designing and building new, unique displays that would help capture the warmth and feel of Madison Heights,” Grafstein said. “The tree lighting account could help with the costs, and these would be one-of-a-kind pieces made in Madison Heights, for Madison Heights.”

Corbett said that in the meantime, the city is trying to be both practical in recognizing the condition of the ornaments, and also tasteful in how they’re displayed.

“Our view in Madison Heights is to be inclusive. In other words, we try to provide space and recognition to all of the holidays and festivals of the season,” Corbett said. “But at the same time, we’re not going to put out a symbol of a religion that is so worn or beaten that it may be taken the wrong way. We certainly don’t want that to happen either.”

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