Creche convention coming to Toronto for Remembrance Day

By 
  • February 24, 2011
Creche ConventionTORONTO - War, history and ecumenism are perhaps not the first associations Christians have with table-top models of baby Jesus nestled in the manger. But the Friends of the Creche intend to take on all three serious subjects at a three-day international convention in Toronto Nov. 10 to 12.

It’s the first time the American branch of the La Universalis Foederatio Praesepistica (known in Canada and the United States as the Friends of the Creche) has held it’s biennial convention in Canada. It’s expected to draw 350 conventioneers, plus hundreds more who will visit a display of rare, historic creches on display at the Royal York Hotel.

Convention chair Nancy Mallet said each of the three themes is unavoidable. With the convention spanning Remembrance Day, it simply had to deal with the creche during war time. As the first Canadian creche convention, the history of the creche in Canada was inevitable. And La Universalis Foederatio Praesepistica has been an ecumenical organization since its founding in 1952.

The convention will open with an ecumenical service at St. James Anglican Cathedral Nov. 10. Mallet, who heads up the Anglican cathedral’s museum, is very aware of the revolution in Protestant acceptance of the creche over the last generation. The first time St. James Cathedral put a Christmas creche on display was 1976. And not all Anglicans thought it was a good idea.

“You would be hard pressed today to find a Protestant church without one,” she said.

So far, the United Church of Canada, Orthodox Copts, Roman Catholics and Anglicans are lined up to take part in the opening prayer service.

“It will reflect the diversity of culture here in Toronto and Canada,” said Mallet.

When Mallet went looking for the history of the creche during war time, she didn’t expect to find much. However, despite the grim realities of war, people still celebrated Christmas and the creche was front and centre.

“Over and over again we’re finding how the creche sustained people (during wartime),” said Mallet.

Mallet and her team have found photos of a creche on board the HMCS Magnificent as Canadian troops headed for Korea in 1952. Among the items on display at the convention will be parts of a concrete creche built by a German prisoner of war at an Iowa prison camp during the Second World War.

A Remembrance-Day-themed display of a trio of creches will show the magi visiting Herod, the adoration of the magi and the slaughter of the innocents — a reminder of how Christ was born into a violent world and a nation under military occupation.

Lectures and creche displays at the convention will open the eyes of many Canadians about their own history, said Mallet. Canada was born into “the zeal of the Counter-Reformation,” she said. The creche and its humanizing imagery of God was part of the spiritual identity of New France.

“The whole development of this country, you can look at it through the eyes of the creche,” Mallet said.

Registration for the convention is $200 for Friends of the Creche members, $225 for non-members before July 31. Prices rise to $230 and $255 after July 31. For information or to register contact Anne Harker at (416) 544-9223 or nativity@rogers.com.

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