'Tis the Season: Nativity through time
Sixty years ago, a soldier from West Hempstead celebrated Christmas with a handmade Nativity scene alongside his brothers-in-arms while stationed in Korea.
Tom Haas, 20 years old in 1956, was drafted and sent overseas for the Korean War. He died in 2007, but his family is continuing his tradition of displaying the creche.
"He was getting kind of melancholy," says his daughter, June Ivarone. To boost camp morale, Ivarone says her dad -- an art student in college -- got permission to build a Nativity scene from items he found around the Army camp.
For the roof, he found insulation. The figures he handcarved from scraps of wood.
Paint colors and other art supplies were limited, but Haas improvised to paint baby Jesus.
Haas set up the Nativity scene in a tent, where it sat on a mound of rocks and dirt. Other handmade villages and houses along with miniature pine trees surrounded the manger.
"He poked holes in the tent, and put a light behind it to show the stars," Ivarone says.
To cap it off, he hung a star on a string and a sign that read "Peace on Earth, good will to men."
On Christmas Eve, the soldiers stood in the tent and sang carols.