And Mary brought forth her first-born son and laid him in a cradle board. And there came an Indian chief and two braves from the East. They presented the Christ Child with gifts: a drum, corn and moccasins.
Wait a minute! That's not how the Christmas story goes!Well, maybe not to us, but it does to the Cochiti Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
Many countries have taken the Christmas story and adapted it to their folk traditions. And these fascinating adaptations can be seen in the creche display at the Museum of Church History and Art.
Creche is French for "manger" or "crib" and usually consists of the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, the Magi, animals and angels. St. Francis of Assisi (1181-82-1226) is credited with popularizing the devotion, which probably already existed before his time.
Paul Anderson, senior designer for the museum, organized the creche show. He said, "Four of the creches belong to the museum. The other five were lent by local collector Jeffery O. Johnson."
In addition to the Cochiti Pueblo creche are those from Santa Clara, New Mexico; Oaxaca, southern Mexico; northern Mexico; Guatemala; Kenya, Africa; Sri Lanka; Israel; and East Germany.
The wooden figures from Sri Lanka are block-shaped. They have been painted with bright colors and embellished with delightful patterns. Important figures, such as Joseph and Mary, are larger than the angels, shepherds and wisemen. Also included in the nativity scene are two sheep, a camel, a rooster and a hen.
The creche from Santa Clara Pueblo appears to have been carved from black stone. Actually, these pieces have been molded from clay and fired in a kiln using techniques perfected by the Pueblo Indians. The wise men carry a wedding vase, a Santa Clara pot and corn. Bear and buffalo add local flavor to the scene.
The creche from Kenya has been molded from clay with little attempt to show detail. The figures are dressed in African clothing and headdresses. The wise men don't bring gold, frankincense and myrrh, but gifts from the region. An elephant and water buffalo gaze upon the Christ child.
Bright, bold colors are seen in the painted wood figures from Oaxaca, Mexico - including a purple donkey and pink cow. Except for the wisemen, the human figures are dressed in peasant clothing.
The 30-inch-high wooden Christmas pyramid from the Erzgebirge Region of East Germany features abstract, carved figures in natural wood colors. The five tiers represent the annunciation, shepherds, manger scene, wisemen, and Roman soldiers. When the candles are lit, the levels revolve.
These fascinating creches will remain on display through Jan. 2 in the foyer of the Museum of Church History and Art, 45 N. West Temple. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. The museum will close at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and also will be closed on Christmas and New Year's. Admission is free.