Nativities on display: Creche exhibits become community affairs
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Whether as individuals, families or communities, Church members during the Christmas season can join with fellow Saints and friends of other faiths in a united appreciation for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Over the years, Church members have shared Christmas events in many various ways and traditions – dinners and programs, concerts and sing-alongs, pageants and living Nativity presentations. A common and popular program throughout the Church – and graciously received by those of other faiths – are collective displays of Christmas Nativity scenes and creche exhibits (creche is French for "crib" or "manger").
Following are a few examples of such creche exhibits recently hosted across North America – events that not only display the cultural and construction varieties of Nativity scenes but also the interfaith coordination making them community-wide draws:
BOISE IDAHO CENTRAL STAKE: For the second straight year, the Boise Idaho Central Stake joined with the city's St. Mark's Catholic Church to host hundreds of Nativity scenes, with other Christian churches being invited to participate in coming years.
"We need to do something for the community, which is part of what this is all about," said Adrian Mickelsen, a member of the Boise Idaho Central Stake high council who helped oversee the 2008 event. "The Savior's birth is something we can all celebrate, no matter what our doctrinal differences are."
Boise's all-day display was held Dec. 6 in the stake center, located next door to the Boise Idaho Temple. The creches ranged from handmade paper sets made by children to elaborate collections obtained from throughout the world as members traveled or served Church missions.
Hosts from the stake greeted visitors, with various ward choirs and members performing music throughout the day. There was also a live Nativity scene presented on the cultural hall's stage, with youth portraying Joseph, Mary, wise men, shepherds and angels.
SIMI VALLEY CALIFORNIA STAKE: The annual Simi Community Christmas celebration has grown into a four-day event, combining creche exhibits with live presentations of the Nativity scene and various vocal and instrumental performances by some 300 singers and musicians.
Held the evenings of Dec. 5-7 and 9 and a Saturday afternoon blocked out for advance-booking of special group tours, the event featured nearly 300 exhibits representing some 50 countries and cultures. It drew 2,400 visitors this year and a request from the Seventh-Day Adventists to join the event next year
Creche collections at the Simi celebration featured displays such as a microscopic clay scene designed on the head of a pin, a Kenyan set made of mud and animal dung that was sun-dried and hand-painted, and an Australian set with characters made from native plants with figurines depicted by a different Australian animal, such as kookaburra shepherds and emu wise men.
FRISCO TEXAS STAKE: With its event spread over three days (Dec. 4-6) and two meetinghouses (Frisco and The Colony), the Frisco Texas Stake welcomed some 3,000 visitors to view 850-plus Nativity scenes on loan from members and others throughout their communities.
In addition to the displays, the event featured more than a dozen musical performances, ranging from Church members to Catholic Community and local school groups.
"This is what we celebrate," said Frisco Texas Stake President Jonathan Roberts of the Savior's birth leading to His mission and ministry. "Almost everyone who attends is drawn closer to Jesus Christ. Isn't that what Christmas is about, serving others and worshipping the Lord?"
ARLINGTON TEXAS AND COLLEYVILLE, TEXAS STAKES: The Arlington and Colleyville stakes conducted their events Dec. 4-7, featuring more than 1,500 creche exhibits. Arlington's event followed the theme "A Season for Angels," with a dozen choirs and a harp ensemble providing live entertainment.
Also offered: free group photos taken in Nativity settings and costumes as well as a community sing-along for an hour before the Dec. 7 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, with participants invited to stay and listen to the messages and music.
WALKERTON (ONTARIO, CANADA) BRANCH: A veteran of more than a half dozen such Nativity exhibits, the Walkerton Branch of the Kitchener Ontario Stake has turned an inaugural 73 displays into this year's "Tour of Thousands of Nativities," with more than 135 local churches invited to participate.
The event has become popular and has drawn community coverage to metro media attention over the years and now draws school tours and visitors by the bus loads.
The exhibits range in size from larger than life to smaller than a thimble. Some are more than a century old, while others are recent construction-paper creations by local school children.