Community Crèche and Music Festival kicks off Christmas season

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A tiny rustic nativity scene from Zimbabwe made of sticks and woven reeds includes not only the main characters, but various animals, a drummer boy, a lute player and the like. It is one of Sheila Pratt’s favorites and can be seen at this year’s Community Crèche & Music Festival. Courtesy photo

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By HEIDI BAY/Special to the Express

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What: Community Crèche & Music Festival

When: Dec. 1-3 and 5-10 from 3 to 8 p.m. daily

Where:Meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 850 Pioneer Ave., Woodland

Extras: Two community concerts, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 and 9, and a carol sing-along at 7 p.m. Dec. 10.

Admission: Free

As Sheila Pratt came upon the woman who stood weeping softly next to the nativity scene made completely of nails, she paused so as not to intrude, but rejoiced in her heart.

“I could see it was very powerful as it came upon her, that connection of the Savior’s birth — and death. That is exactly what we hope for and work to create, an environment where people can feel the spirit of Christmas and have their own experience,” Pratt recalled recently as she contemplated having led the interfaith team, which puts on the Community Crèche & Music Festival each December for the past eight years.

In the years since Pratt has been part of organizing the community event, it has grown from a simple exhibit of about 200 crèches over a weekend into a 10-day multi-faceted interfaith event that features more than 1,000 nativity scenes.

One of Sheila Pratt’s favorite nativity scenes taken from her collection and lent to the event is actually a painting of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus with the whole host of Heaven passing overhead. “It is as though the artist is trying to portray the wonder, power, and glory all crammed into one tiny baby,” she said. Courtesy photo

The crèches in the exhibit are from around the world and are of widely varying size and style, made of everything from paper, twigs and carved stone, to pewter, monkey wood and clay. Residents throughout Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties lend these treasured items from their own collections.

The 16th annual Community Crèche & Music Festival will take place Dec. 1-3 and 5-10 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily at the meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 850 Pioneer Ave. in Woodland (on the corner of Gum Street and Pioneer Avenue). There will be two community concerts, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 and 9, and a carol sing-along at 7 p.m. Dec. 10.

Admission is free.

The theme for this year’s event is drawn from Luke 2:19, where it says, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” The organizers wondered, “if Mary pondered in her heart, what of the wise men coming from afar, the shepherds and others?” Pratt said. “And do we ponder still today?”

Interwoven among the nativity scenes this year, visitors will come upon life-size scenes of the various participants in that first Christmas, “in a state of pondering,” Pratt said.  “We wondered what were they pondering? Were the wise men excited and filled with anticipation? We hope it will inspire visitors to likewise ponder.”

For John Bringhurst, who has been involved with the event for many years, it is the universal quality of the festival that makes this such a powerful event for the community.

“To me, it is especially meaningful that these nativities come from all over the world, and from many different cultures. This reflects the universal appeal of the simple Christmas story, which marked the humble beginning to what is now a great faith tradition,” said Bringhurst, who is president of the Woodland California Stake for the LDS Church, which encompasses eight congregations in Davis, Woodland, Winters, Dixon and West Sacramento.

“We are pleased to continue our annual tradition of hosting a community crèche exhibit. This yearly display helps us to refocus on the birth of Christ as the origin of our Christmas traditions.”

Children are welcome to attend the festival, both to view the main display with their parents and to enjoy the children’s room. There, in a specially built stable, children and adults can dress up in any one of the large collection of costumes representing nativity characters such as Mary and Joseph, a shepherd, a Roman soldier or even a sheep, and have their picture taken and printed.

While waiting for their picture to be taken, kids can do a special Christmas craft project.

For a schedule of events, directions, and more information go to www.woodlandcreche.org. To volunteer for the event or lend your nativity, email woodlandcreche@gmail.com or visit www.justserve.org.

 

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