Since the time St. Francis of Assisi first created a live Nativity tableau at Grecchio, Italy, in 1223, the creche has been a beloved part of the Christmas tradition.
Originally, the custom of displaying a manger scene was more popular in Roman Catholic countries on the European continent. During the long winter evenings of Advent, the time preceding Christmas, the people of Central Europe prepared their creches-repairing the manger, enlarging the shed, adding more figures. Many of these Nativity displays included hundreds of figures and filled an entire room.
In the towns of Italy, Germany, Austria, and South America, clubs emerged where children learned to build creches. The youngsters were allowed to use their own imagination and creativity, resulting in original, often beautiful Nativity scenes. Before World War II, the boys of a single parish in Vienna built a collection of more than two hundred creches.
An especially endearing custom that originated in France and Spread to other countries is that of “preparing the manger.” Every night, children are allowed to place a wisp of straw in the manger for each act of devotion or good work they did during the day. These little piece of straw were intended to make a soft bedding in the manger so that when the Christ Child arrived on Christmas Day, there was an ample supply of straw to keep Him warm and to soften the manger’s hardness.
Among the German sect known as Moravians, the custom of the Christmas Creche survive the strict laws of the Reformation. When the Moravians came to America, they brought with them a cherished tradition of especially elaborate displays. In addition to hundreds of figures, they sometimes included landscaping, waterfalls, houses, fences, bridges, villages, and gardens. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-founded by Moravian missionaries on Christmas Eve, 1741-has drawn admiring crowds during the holiday season to view its large community creche.
Today, many families and churches display a creche, either within the building or on the outside. From the most simple designs to the elaborately carved creches of Germany’s Black Forest, these stirring Nativity creations allow us to view a representation of the scene which the shepherds first beheld.
Traditionally, Nativity displays have always included a structure to protect the Holy Family and the animals. So that your Nativity display might be complete in every way, we have especially designed the Nativity Creche to complement your Lenox Nativity figures.
Wonderful God, just as we have constructed a structure on our church grounds as the focal point of our upcoming Come the Stable event, there is also a creche that has been built for our nativity set, to represent the location of the start of Your story in human flesh with us. Help us to direct our heads and hearts to what this story means to each of us, as we welcome the Christ child into our hearts during this holy season. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.