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Creches of the World on display at Comox church

By Jessie Schut
Rebecca Martel uses her artistic skills to portray a nativity scene on the door of Comox Valley Presbyterian Church, host of the Creches of the World display. Photo supplied

By Jessie Schut

Special to the Record

It’s back!

After two years of COVID-induced cancellations, the Comox Valley Presbyterian Church is delighted to open its doors once again to “Nativity: Creches of the World,” a display of nativity sets from around the globe.

The popular event, which drew around 500 visitors at its last appearance in 2019, will be held on Dec. 16 and 17 this year. It will feature up to 200 sets, live music, a dark room with lighted sets, and activities for the children.

St. Francis is credited with mounting the first live nativity display, featuring a manger, an ox, and a donkey, as an illustration for his Christmas sermon in 1223. It was the start of a tradition. Before long, every church was creating its own version of the birth of Jesus, featuring either live performers or creating statues of the event. The custom spread to homes where families displayed their own smaller “creche” (meaning crib) to help focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Usually, these creches were made of material readily available, such as wood, clay or paper.

Now, artisans from around the world create creches in an enormous variety of styles from many different materials that are popular in their culture – corn husks, bamboo, ivory, stone, glass, pewter and more. Often these creches show Mary, Joseph and the baby with skin tones, facial features and clothing typical of the artisan’s culture. Visitors to the display will see a huge variety of these multicultural displays.

Rebecca Martel created a nativity scene especially for this event in a style popular in today’s culture: she painted a nativity window on the church’s door. Rebecca, who spent four years in the Comox Valley and took every art class possible at Highlands Secondary School, has returned to the Valley with her family after a 20-year absence to Montreal. COVID gave her the opportunity to realize a long-held dream: to make a living from her art away from makeup and face-painting. Her company, ‘Mountain top to beach,’ has now created more than 100 contracts around town, and the demand continues.

“I’m painting this window for my mom and her fellow church members, who have been involved in ‘Creches of the World’ since its beginning,” she says. “She loves being a part of this event so much and I’m honoured to use my art to add to this display.”

Although the original nativity happened two millennia ago, it speaks eloquently to our world today, says the Rev. Jenn Geddes, pastor of Comox Valley Presbyterian Church.

“No matter how detailed or ornate, nativity scenes remind me that this is a story about a homeless refugee family living under an oppressive government. Regardless, they had each other and that is what the Christmas story is about.”

The dates of the display are Friday, Dec.16 1-3 p.m. for seniors and persons with mobility issues, Dec. 16, 3-6 :30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 17, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for all. Comox Valley Presbyterian Church, which is totally wheelchair accessible, is located at 725 Aspen Rd. In Comox. A website with more information and photos can be found at