crèches around the world

The crèche – a representation of the nativity scene –  is an art form I look forward to this time of year. When living in Italy, I carefully selected beautiful hand-carved pieces of shepherds or sheep to take back home as gifts, and always enjoyed viewing the life-size presepio featured in Italian piazzas. Much more civilized than a plastic blow-up of the Grinch, I say.

This weekend I visited a local festival which featured hundreds of crèches from around the world. Believers, non-believers and everyone in between, with a curiosity for travel and world culture, will appreciate the diversity found in crèches from places like France, Mexico, Italy, Peru, Columbia, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Alaska and Hawaii.

Faceless, abstract, figurative, stained glass, pewter, wood, cloth. Of particular interest, a cold-weather (!) nativity scene featuring arctic fox, seals and polar bears from Alaska (not shown).


A crèche created in layers into a colorful and painted gourd from Columbia.


Wooden tribe from Africa.


Authentic Mexican Nativity Scene.


Pewter Nativity.


A crèche made from a coconut shell, Hawaii.


 Gourd nativity from South America.


Miniature dark-skinned Joseph, Mary and tiny Baby Jesus made of clay. From Peru.


White porcelain origami.


Stunning dark wooden crèche from Zimbabwe.

The variety of interpretations of the nativity scene across countries and cultures provided a beautiful display and a joyful experience.

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(This blogger as a young girl visiting a traditional Nativity Scene at mass with her family.)

My memories of crèches growing up include the above display at our local church and an elegant and simple nativity scene filled with German carved wood figurines that my mother always placed under our Christmas tree at home. Do you display a crèche at the holiday season? What kind?

photos courtesy of my 9-year-old daughter


7 responses to “crèches around the world

  1. Lovely post, Monique! I especially love the sweet little figurines of the Mexican creche. I have some teeny-tiny ones that I perch on the tree. I often buy toy creches as gifts (last year, gave two Melissa & Doug sets). It’s true many people are not particularly religious these days but it’s really not possible to understand European art history without knowing the biblical stories.

    • Thanks for stopping by Lesley. I agree with your comment about European art history & Christianity. I love European art so much it inspires me to learn more about these sort of stories so I have a deeper understanding.

  2. Monique, how wonderful to see all of these different Nativity scenes. I can just imagine how beautiful they must have been in Italy. How lucky you were to be able to have your Christmas there. We don’t have a creche, but when I lived in Malibu there was always a beautiful one in the center of town that I enjoyed looking at each year.

  3. I love the nativity scene! I have a wonderful one my stepmother needlepointed. It`s one of my treasures.

  4. Wonderful post with such beautiful creches expressing their cultures. I love seeing these. We have a small stone creche from the Philippines. I like to put it in unexpected places each year to catch the casual visitor unawares.

  5. Those are beautiful nativity scenes. The colorful one from Colombia is my favorite.

    My grandmother used to lay hers out every December, with fruits (manzanillas, I think) and a variety of figurines, underneath the tree on a special blanket. It was beautiful and wonderfully illuminated. In Spain, families still lay out Nativity scenes in their houses (thought it’s becoming rare), and town halls usually have a life-sized display outside.

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