International conference to explore creche culture

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Banned and even burned as idolatrous and papist during the Protestant Reformation, many creches survived only by being hidden away. Photo: Shutterstock

From Nov 10-12, Toronto’s Cathedral Church of St. James will host the biennial convention of U.S. Friends of the Creche organization. Entitled “A Northern Nativity,” the international conference will explore the expression of the many forms of this venerable Christmas tableau in history and around the world today.

Banned and even burned as idolatrous and papist during the Protestant Reformation, many creches survived only by being hidden away. “Friends of the Creche was first established in Italy in the early years of the 20th century when many collections of creches were being broken up and sold in antique markets,” said Nancy Mallett, the convention’s chair and chair of the St. James’ Archives & Museum Committee. The World Congress of the Creche is based in Rome.

Over the past century, Friends organizations have sprung up in 19 countries, including Argentina and Brazil. Although Canada has no official organization, interested Canadians attend international creche conferences. It was at the 2007 convention of the U.S. Friends of the Creche in Dublin, Ohio, that U.S. delegates approached Mallett about hosting their meeting in 2009. The result is the November 2011 event, which will feature displays of creches from many ethnic and religious milieus.

The convention will open on the evening of Thurs, Nov. 10 with an ecumenical service at the cathedral. The service planning committee includes clergy from the Roman Catholic, United, Coptic and Slovakian Byzantine Rite churches.

Based also at the nearby Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the conference will feature lectures by academic and curatorial experts on the Nativity scene, the creche in time of war and in aboriginal art, the Christmas star and the proper care of creches. The hotel will also have creche exhibits, auctions, a manger market and workshops.

Dramatizing the Nativity at the Cathedral, the University of Toronto’s medieval players, Poculi Ludique Societas, will perform three excerpts from the biblical plays of the city of Chester in England: Herod and the Wise Men, The Adoration of the Wise Men and The Slaughter of the Innocents and the Death of Herod.

Besides Mallett, the small Toronto-based group of committed convention organizers includes Jill and Frank Walkingshaw.

The registration fee for non-Friends members is $225 before July 31 and $255 after. Registration includes exhibits, auctions, manger mart, service and hotel reception, dramas, workshops and the closing banquet.

For more details, contact Nancy Mallett, conference chair, at 416 364 7865, ext 233.

Or email

archives@stjames cathedral.on.ca or

nativity@rogers.com.

Details are also available at www.friends of the creche.org and www.stjamescathedral.on.ca.

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Diana Swift
Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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