The Christmas Creche Exhibit was begun in 1983, when the women's organization (Relief Society) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ann Arbor, Michigan, planned a Christmas party with Christ's Nativity as its theme. The program consisted of music, poetry and Christmas stories, all focused on Christ's birth, and about 65 creches (nativity scenes) were displayed as decorations. The creches were owned by members of the congregation (ward), especially by two creche collectors in our midst. This display was so well received that the following year, in order to get better acquainted with our Church neighborhood and to firmly establish the fact that Mormons are indeed Christians, the Creche Exhibit was expanded, and the community was invited to join us in this celebration of Christ's birth.
As a result, local papers and even NBC TV in Detroit gave us much appreciated press coverage and have continuted to support us over the years. Individuals have been asked to give talks about creches (and their history) in Ann Arbor (including the University of Michigan) and in surrounding communities. These have been very pleasant experiences and have created new and enjoyable friendships.
The exhibit has grown steadily during the many intervening years, not only in the number and variety of creches, but also in community attendance and attention. We exhibit creches from the very elaborate to simple child-like expressions and created from ceramic, porcelain, wood, chocolate, wood shavings, cookies, coal, tin, soap, mud and dung, ground cinnamon bark, and many others. Between 60 to 80 women in the Ann Arbor congregations (wards) of the church generously share their treasured nativities for the week of setting up and the days of the exhibit. Also, over the years, a number of the church women have become serious creche collectors. Because part of our group is very transient, with many students coming and going, our exhibit has spread throughout the country, leading to the creation of a great many other creche exhibits in ours and a few other churches in the United States and also in Canada. The 2001 exhibit featured over 1000 creches from 98 countries around the world.
This year, 2003, the number of our creches has grown to approximately 1,500, which greatly exceeds the space we have for their display. For this reason, our creche committee has decided to limit the nativities to approximately 900 in any given year. We feel that fewer creches is artistically much more rewarding, not only to set-up but to view. As a result, we will no longer have a separate room for our hundreds of miniature creches, but instead will place as many as possible with their respective countries, on a yearly rotating basis. We will have an area set aside in the large hall to display others and some will, of necessity, be withheld. In addition, our major creche collectors are willing to rotate the numbers of creches they share each year. This will continue to make room for the many new nativities that appear for our exhibit each year. Creche collecting throughout America and much of the world has reached an all-time high, and we greatly enjoy participating in that trend.
We are extremely proud that our Creche Exhibit has become an Ann Arbor Christmas tradition, and now draws several thousand people each year.. It affords all of us great satisfaction and joy to be able to present this exhibit as our Christmas gift to our community and to all those who attend.
Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!