WEST HAVEN -- At the time of year when headlines abound about fighting over merchandise in stores, a local family quietly shares its message of hope.
Brad and Tammy Hunt, their extended family and friends put on nine performances of a 20-minute live Nativity and Christmas pageant for the three days before Christmas as a gift to the community.
Taking place on and around the Hunt home at 3161 S. 2850 West in West Haven, the pageant includes a chicken, sheep, llamas, goats, donkeys and soldiers riding horses, intimidating the poor who can't afford to pay the taxes required of them.
It's a gift those involved wouldn't think of holding back from friends and strangers who enjoy it.
"I think our family doesn't even know what Christmas is without it," Tammy Hunt said. "Our focus this time of year is not really about presents and that kind of thing."
"It's not presents; it's purpose," said April Hunt, 27, Brad and Tammy's daughter.
Tammy said sharing the message of the event is addicting.
"Our kids, they have never known a Christmas without it. When we say we should retire, there is a mutiny."
Besides, the family and participants wish to share what they find important about the holiday.
"The most important thing we want to tell people is, if they are looking for the true meaning of Christmas, this is a very good way to share what it's all about and to share with their family and little kids," Tammy said.
The event is a 34-year tradition started by Brad's parents, Doug and Dianne Hunt, who lived in Roy at the time. It has spent 17 years at its current locale.
"My mother-in-law started the Nativity because she wanted to give something to her children," Tammy said. "It has evolved over the years."
The families are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they stress that their production is Bible-based and suitable for people with a variety of religious backgrounds.
"It appeals to Christians everywhere," Tammy said.
Friends and family who act in the production said they've fallen in love with it in the same way as the Hunts and Tammy's family, the Schneiders.
Shannon Woodward, of Ogden, has helped with "a little of everything" at the Nativity for 13 years.
"It's just my favorite Christmas tradition," she said.
"It helps you reflect on being with your family and those things that are important."
She said she particularly loved it when her children were angels.
"It's a fun family thing, and it takes all the commercialism out of Christmas," she said.
Roger Graves, of West Haven, is known this time of year as Rogerious Gravis, the Roman centurion he has played for a number of years.
He jokes about sitting on a horse in a "skirt and T-shirt" in 20-below-zero weather.
But on a serious side, he said he has seen events in the production that have moved him.
"A couple years ago, it was snowing heavy. Right before (the production) started, it kind of eased up.
"It seemed like the weather allowed for the production and the pageant to go on, and then a little later, it snowed again," he said.
"I thought that was pretty cool."
Hooper resident Rocio Schneider, the wife of Tammy's younger brother, Jace, said playing Mary and Joseph is the special right of family members who are newlyweds.
Rocio and Jace have played the centerpiece couple the last few years, but this year will be different.
"Having a child of our own will make it mean that much more to us," Rocio said.
The family provides bleachers and straw for the audience and Thursday night drew a standing-room-only crowd, with cars parked all up and down the street.
A group of LDS young women from Taylor attended Thursday and said they were glad they did.
"I didn't know I was cold until it was all over," said Shelby Molen, 15.
"It was real and rugged like it would have been. It was not all fancy."
Shelby said having the live animals in front of her made the Nativity real and personal, as opposed to some things she has seen on television.
"It was really touching and spiritual," she said.
One of Shelby's leaders, Kami Loder, said she'd heard a lot about the pageant through word of mouth in the community.
"It's amazing to feel the true meaning of Christmas," she said.
"There's great music, and it's all volunteer. The community supports it."
"Everybody talks about it," said another leader, Kari Widdison, who also is related to a cast member.
"You get a feeling of what it would have been like. You get to think about it and contemplate."
Hunt family Nativity
The public is invited to attend free 20-minute performances at 6:30, 7 and 7:30 tonight in front of the Hunt home at 3161 S. 2850 West, West Haven.
Parking is available along the street. Participants are asked to arrive early because they may have to park and walk from several houses away. Layers of warm clothing also are recommended.