With nearly 600 animals at her farm in Georgia, Jodi Gray can only choose a dozen or so for a very important assignment at Christmas at the Library.
What You Need to Know
- The Billy Graham Library
opens at 9:30 a.m. and is
closed on Sundays.
Admission and parking
- Christmas activities are
Monday through Thursday,
5 p.m.–9 p.m.; and
Friday and Saturday,
5 p.m.–10 p.m.
- Carriage rides:
$12 for adults;
$6 for children under 12
They’re part of the live nativity, depicting the night of Jesus Christ’s birth more than 2,000 years ago.
Along with a daytime petting zoo, these animals draw lots of people to the annual event at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Donkeys, camels, and sheep you might expect, but this year Hank came along.
The Australian red kangaroo is a toddler and has a loving and affectionate personality.
“People like him, especially when he stands up real tall, like a person, and starts scratching his belly,” Gray laughed.
Past visitors may remember his dad, Sydney, who also captured hearts at the Library.
And there have been other unique crowd favorites: a black-and-white ruffed lemur and fluffy, silky chickens.
For 16 years, Gray has brought the animals from Lake Hartwell Wildlife Safari, a business she owns with her husband, Jeff. This year, there are a few babies tagging along.
Pearl, a 1-month-old white camel, still takes a bottle. “She is adorable and wants to give everyone kisses, but has the worst breath,” Gray said.
Ethel, a 3-week-old foal, stays close by her mother, Lucy—a veteran nativity donkey. Nearby, a baby lamb sticks with its mom.
Z.B., a miniature Zebu cow from India, is only 1 year old. Gray hadn’t originally planned to bring Z.B., but said, “I thought we needed a little extra for cuteness.”
The very best part for her is seeing the joy animals bring.
On a warm night this past weekend, she simply listened as she stood underneath a cloudy sky near the makeshift barn.
“Hearing how much the animals mean to people and bring life to the nativity scene, that’s the coolest part of it,” she recalled.
For kids, it’s learning what the season is really about, she said—not just Santa Claus and presents, but the real reason for the season, as told in Luke 2:1–21.
“If you’re telling a child about Mary coming in on a donkey, and a child sees the donkey, they then understand,” Gray said. “Or kings coming on camels with gifts for baby Jesus.”
During afternoons on Thursdays through Saturdays, kids can see the animals up close and personal at a petting zoo. Note: No petting is allowed during the evening Christmas at the Library experience.
“The way to get a child to understand something is for them to actually be able to see it, hear it, and touch it,” said Gray.
“I think it’s more of a visual thing for the kids to understand the [Christmas] story,” she said. “To see it altogether with the animals … is just a blessing.”
Bring the Whole Family: In addition to live nativity, children and parents can attend story time, enjoy a carriage ride through twinkling lights, or take The Journey of Faith tour—which tells the story of how God used Billy Graham to communicate the Gospel over the decades. Meals and sweet treats, such as hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, are available at the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Save your spot today.