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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | December 2002

"Friends of the Crèche"


Finding Curriculum Connections
Understanding Basic Terms
Preserving Our Christian Memories
Create Your Own Crèche
Research Resources

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Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

• Christian lifestyles—celebrating the origins of our faith
• Religion—the origins and meaning of the Christmas crèche
• Art—creating your own crèche

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.  Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners. 







Artistic expression



Preserving Our Christian Memories

Biographies of celebrities and historical characters are presently popular in television programming. The viewing public has a strong interest in where people came from and how they got their start in life. You've probably also seen the MTV show "Cribs," where celebrities take the audience on tours of their "cribs" or homes.

Our article this month spotlights a special "crib," the Christmas crèche, and the story of Jesus' beginnings. We read about a group of crèche enthusiasts, the Friends of the Crèche, that works to keep alive the memory of where we Christians got our start in life.

We have various ways of preserving memories. Some cultures have relied on oral traditions, others the written word. Ceremonies and traditions can help us recall who we are. Some of us who are descended from immigrants to America look for our family names on Ellis Island rosters. Others return to their homeland every year to renew family experiences.

In our contemporary culture memory books, scrapbooks, photo albums and videotapes keep the memory of families and friends alive. We treasure figures and statues representing role models we cherish. Even the lovable, cuddly teddy bear can represent a time of comfort and security, a memory of childhood.

As Christians, we share the memory of a special event, the humble beginnings of our faith. Our God, the God in whom we place our faith, entered our lives 2000 years ago in a unique way. He sent his son Jesus as a baby born to Mary and her fiancé Joseph. In these days of large churches, multipurpose parish centers and elaborate programs we can forget our simple origins as a poor family looking for shelter.

The crèche, the representation of a little baby born in an animal's stable to a teen mother and a poor carpenter, prevents us from forgetting our beginnings. It symbolizes the simplicity of our faith. It's the sign of the Incarnation, God entering our life in an intimate, vulnerable way. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree or a mantle lined with stockings filled with gifts certainly conjure up visions of Christmas. But the crèche is at the heart of it all.


Creating Your Own crèche

History buffs enjoy creating dioramas of historical events, such as World War II. Collectors savor crèches, treasure Barbie dolls, trade baseball cards, and bid at auctions on antique furniture—all to enjoy memories of their earlier years.

You may enjoy creating your own Christmas crèche. As a class project, you could divide into several teams, then choose a culture in which to create your crèche. Suggestions would include American Southwest, Latin American, African, urban, rural. Research the culture to ensure authenticity. You can also choose different art mediums for the project: clay, wood, fabric even papier-mâché.

· See Bill Egan's International Crèche School for a course in making your own crèche, including backgrounds, figures and accessories. The site also features crèche art from various countries of the world.

· In your research, read about the history of the Christmas crib, the amazing craftsmanship of artists who celebrate the crèche, and crèche collectibles and works of art.

· You could construct the stable or background using the same principles used for theater design models.

· Following the basics of using polymer clay, you can sculpt or shape the crèche figures. If you need some direction on making the figures, check out a clay angel that could serve as a pattern for all the figures. (Instructions for handling polymer clay safely are important.)

· If you enjoy working with wood, you can create a crèche scene with patterns and a scroll saw. You can purchase the patterns or draw your own after looking at some examples. The team can work together in sanding and painting the wood figures.

· Maybe you're good at working with fabric. Look at this online fabric angel for inspiration, or check out craft books in your local library.

· You might try your hand at making a small tree ornament. Fashion the crib from half a walnut shell. Stuff the shell with a cotton ball, then tuck and glue a small piece of fabric over the cotton as a blanket. Glue a bit of fabric around another scrap of cotton to form a pillow. Use a fabric-covered button for the baby's head, drawing the face with a fine-tip pen. Glue thread to the shell ends to hang it on the tree, or add it to a crèche scene.

What's important is creating something that will remind you—and others—of the significance of Jesus' birth. Your project can be shared with the rest of the school. Or you might suggest an annual display of crèches in your parish. Request donations from the visitors and give the money to a charity benefiting the homeless.

Giving your crèche to someone in need would be a wonderful way to share the holiday: young women at a home for unwed mothers, the residents of a nursing home, or a hospitalized child. Try taking photographs of your work with a digital camera and then sharing the pictures with another school through the internet.

Start your own tradition. Consider marking your calendar for the 25th of every month and display a crèche for one day. It's your reminder that Jesus entered our lives once in a very humble way, and continues to be with us every day.


Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further general reference.  Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The New American Bible

Documents of Vatican II 

The Vatican

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

The Chicago Tribune

The Washington Post

The Miami Herald

The Associated Press

Time Magazine



ABC News

Pathfinder—Access site to a number of online news publications

People magazine

The History Channel

The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

Channel One —online resource for the school channel

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