What: Community Crèche and Music Festival, featuring Community Choral Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday
When: 3-8 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Where: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house, Gum and Pioneer avenues, Woodland
For Davis resident Heather Lybbert, it’s a scene carved by a carpenter in the African nation of Burkina Faso.
For Kiyomi Buchanan, it’s an intricately folded origami nativity set from her homeland of Japan.
For Libby Freeman, it’s a wooden carving of Mary and the baby Jesus that her parents brought to her as a gift from Oberammergau, Germany, back in 1957 when she was a young mother.
And for Mary Marble, it’s hard to choose which of her nearly 60 nativity scenes is most precious to her — one of several from the three years she spent in Zimbabwe with her husband on a mission for her church or perhaps one of the exquisite interpretations of the birth of Jesus Christ she found on her many visits to Europe.
“The crèche is one of the most beautiful and beloved traditions of the Christmas season, with variations on the nativity scene set up in homes around the world during this time of year,” said Sheila Pratt, coordinator of the 11th annual Community Crèche & Music Festival, set to launch the Christmas season next weekend.
“Whether the display is elaborate and rare or something simple made by a child, it can truly stir the heart. That is what makes this event so special.”
Everyone is welcome at the festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the meeting house of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the corner of Gum and Pioneer avenues in Woodland. Admission is free.
The event combines a crèche exhibit with an extensive musical program, a family room of nativity-themed activities for children, and a Christ-centered exhibit featuring artwork of the Savior.
“In 11 years, this event has grown from a handful of items shared by members of our congregations in Woodland into a multi-faceted, interfaith gathering that brings together members of many churches and choirs in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties,” said Corey Cuvelier, president of the Woodland California Stake for the LDS Church. “This is a very special time of year.”
This year, the crèche exhibit will consist of more than 250 nativity scenes of all sizes and styles on loan from members of various local churches. A wide variety of crèches from all over the world will be on display, ranging from hand-painted monkey wood, carved stone, and clay and pewter, to those configured into ornaments, puzzles and even a music box from Hungary.
There are also items from countries such as Mexico, Zimbabwe, Israel, Spain, Chile, the Philippines, Egypt, and Ireland.
“If you haven’t been before, you will be amazed. If you have been before, you will be equally delighted, because we are always getting new items,” Pratt said. “A woman who displayed one crèche last year just emailed me to say she is bringing 20 this year, so there are always new things to see.”
The musical part of the festival features an ongoing program throughout the weekend. Live classical and holiday music will include piano, organ, flute, string, and vocal solos and choir performances.
“We are really excited about the music this year, because now that the event is becoming more well-known, more people want to be part of the experience,” Pratt said.
The centerpiece of the Crèche & Music Festival is the Community Choral Concert, which will be presented from 7 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. After choirs from local churches and community groups perform, the evening will culminate with all the choirs combining to sing “O Holy Night” and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
“The interfaith tapestry of voices is breathtaking,” Pratt said.
For families, the Crèche & Music Festival has become much more accessible in the past few years since “The Family Room” debuted.
“We created it, because we wanted families to be able to come and parents not have to be constantly holding their hands and saying, ‘don’t touch,’ ” Pratt explained with a laugh. “We really tried to make it a place where kids feel really comfortable, and we’ve been so successful that it is always packed with lots of fun and joy.”
The centerpiece of the room is a specially built stable, where children and adults alike can dress up like Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, or a wise man and have their picture taken. While waiting for their picture to be taken, kids can do a special Christmas craft project.