Many church communities, and even households, have a long tradition of lovingly arranging nativity scenes for contemplation at Christmastime. This year, one such tradition is celebrating it’s twenty-fifth anniversary, and the organizers have really gone to town, creating a show that rivals any we’ve ever seen. In early December, Bay Area residents are treated – entirely free of charge – to an abundant array of creches from throughout the world.The display areas span many rooms, and cover creche interpretations from all over the globe.
Over the years, some of our favorites have hailed from Europe, Russia and the Americas. Typically, some of the exhibits are very simple, others are intricate, including ‘fire’ or real, flowing water. The exhibits can range in style from an antique black Madonna to a quite modern Scandinavian design, from simple folk art to highly crafted artisan works. Some will feel delightfully new, at once foreign and familiar. We saw the holy family from Tiacquepaque, Mexico with charming, yet strange halos.When we visited, on the first day of the exhibit, we were serenaded by two harpists, and noticed a nativity marionette show in one of the rooms, for anyone young at heart. Care is always taken in the presentation space around each creche, and the overall effect is joy, embodied. It is a beautiful thing to contemplate all the many ways that the baby Jesus is envisioned, and all the many loving hands who are involved in each creche display, from the artist to the people who place the creche so that others can behold and rejoice. Whoever visits will not soon forget the experience, and will probably have a hard time choosing a favorite.
The exhibit takes place annually at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 3865 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA, 94303 in Palo Alto, Details are at www.christmascreche.org. There’s easy parking, far from the shopping bustle, and the attendants are all so friendly, you’ll enjoy yourself even if you’ve never done anything like it. If you’re a Bay Area resident, you might want to mark your calendars so you don’t miss next year. If not, seek out a creche near you, or perhaps start a tradition of your own.
Do you have a Christmas Creche tradition? If so, do you have a photo you might share with us? Next year, we hope to have a gallery of stories, images, and ideas, to share with visitors to our site.