After a two-year break, a popular tradition is returning to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the crèche exhibit opens on Friday for two weekends.
With close to 300 nativity scenes on display, gentle lighting and seasonal music, the exhibit is an excellent start to the Christmas season.
“It creates an atmosphere of Christmas,” said Eric Viklund, one of the organizers. “I think people catch that spirit.”
The idea developed in Creston following an exhibit that started in an Ann Arbor, Mich., LDS church in the early 1980s, eventually running for 25 years.
“It developed into quite a show that everyone raved about,” said Viklund.
The local crèche exhibit previously ran from 2000-2010 and started out with about 125 displays, but that number quickly grew.
The nativities now boast a wide range of origins (including Israel, Africa, Peru, Paraguay and Italy), styles (an Arctic-themed crèche is complete with sled dogs and caribou) and sizes (miniature to two feet). Some are heirlooms, dating back to the 1930s.
“They’ve become very precious to their owners,” said Viklund.
Some of the crèches have components made locally. One local carver used a piece of fir bark to create a barn, and Viklund created a cave instead of a stable, using rocks from a now-defunct Nelson quarry — the source of the white granite used in the LDS Cardston Alberta Temple, built from 1913-1923.
With many shapes and sizes, it takes a large team of volunteers to make the exhibit happen. About a dozen committees deal with everything from electrical to ironing tablecloths to setting up the crèches.
“They’re not just laying them out — they’ll put them on a raised platform and set them on an accent cloth that complements that particular nativity scene,” said Viklund.
The exhibit has proven popular with all ages — groups from area schools, Swan Valley Lodge and Crest View Village are visiting by appointment — and an activity room has been set up for children to make their own nativities from wood and paper.
Although the exhibit is held at the Mormon church, it draws in visitors of all denominations because the crèches — which have been accepted from non-LDS loaners for the first time this year — are based on something they all have in common.
“In this day and age, we’ve sort of gotten away from the Christ aspect of the season,” said Viklund. “We want to get back to the roots of Christmas.”
Admission is free. The crèche exhibit runs 1-8 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30, and Dec. 6 and 7, and 1-6 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8 at the LDS church located at 101 36th Ave. N. in Erickson.