PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — An 80-year-old Rhode Island man has created a larger-than-life Nativity scene that's 50 years in the making.
Eugenio "Geno" Milano said it all started many years ago, when he was just a kid. His father, a proud Italian-Catholic, started the annual tradition of putting up a Nativity scene around the Christmas holiday, calling it "Eugenio's Presepio-Nativity Scene."
“All of this tradition was left to me by my father, and I remember when my father was doing it when I was four years old," said Milano, whose first language is Italian. “I started in 1975 and every year was a little bit different."
Milano passed the tradition onto his children as well.
“Growing up, we never had a Christmas tree in our house, we always had this Nativity scene," said Cinzia Pereira, Milano's daughter.
Having moved to Providence more than 40 years ago, Milano said after following in his father's footsteps, his display initially began inside.
“We fight, me and my wife, but that’s OK cause she likes it, but she says, 'You take every room in the house. Where do we eat tonight?'" Milano said.
Originally, he built his display on the third floor of their home, but it took up an entire room. Then, he used the first floor of his home.
One year, he set it up at the Holy Ghost Church.
“As we got older, this got bigger, and it would cover our living room set," Pereira said. "There would be nowhere to sit, and we wanted a Christmas tree at that time, so he decided to move it outdoors."
At that time, he made a hand-made outdoor see-through shed. Using plexiglass, he installed the display case right next to his home on Vinton Street.
Ever since, every year in October he heads outside to start on his display.
Every year it’s different, he changes it up. He’ll take some pieces out and put new pieces in," said Pereira. "He will go out there no matter what. He does not realize he’s 80 he’s got that Peter Pan Syndrome. We tell him he’s 80 and he’s like 'Nah, nah, I’m good."'
Milano said the display takes a lot of work, but it's always worth it.
“This my hobby and this my tradition left by my father. Nobody can stop what is my dream," said Geno. “Mentally it’s hard to do, because you have to know exactly how you have to build everything, painting, because you have to prepare all these things on time for Christmas."
The display, which consists of over 400 pieces, is very detailed.
Milano said his collection of pieces has grown significantly over the years. He even orders things for the scene from his home country of Italy.
“All the house, I built it, but the statue, they come in strictly from Italy," he said. "When I find something I know belongs in there, I pick it up right away."
The inside of the display case is hand-painted by Milano.
He crafted nearly all of the homes on display, and there's no detail too small – right down to the moss he uses to display the animals to making it look more real-life.
“I go in the woods, I’m serious," he said. "I collect moss from a very special place, if it's good I get a lot at a time."
Pereira said her dad's display shows his gratitude for the sentimental things in life.
“His imagination takes it," said Pereira. "It’s just something he is so proud of, and proud to keep that tradition going. He’s got that positive 'I’m alive' attitude and he doesn’t take it for granted, that’s for sure. He says until he can’t do it any longer, then he won’t, but he just loves it and is very proud of it."'
The display is open for the public's viewing.
In fact, Milano welcomes visitors with open arms. The feedback keeps him fueled.
“I’m happy I'm making people happy, because I got a lot of people coming around and they come in and see inside and they enjoy it, because they never see something in a private property like that," he said. "I take it down Jan. 6 because in Italy we celebrate the Epiphany."