St. Monica’s beautiful creche has graced our church’s altar for many Christmas seasons. Like many things, this Christmas may not give us all the same access to this Nativity scene; however, that doesn’t mean that we can’t share in this wonderful tradition in a new way. Thanks to our parishioners who’ve shared their family creches and stories with us.
Our first daughter was born in December 50 years ago. We did not have much money and I had done nothing for Christmas, being busy preparing for a new baby. When I walked into our tiny apartment after a 10-day hospital stay, I was stunned and amazed to see that Peter had gone out, bought and decorated a Christmas tree and, most wonderful of all, had purchased a tiny crèche—Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an ox and an ass—which he set up under the tree. My heart was overwhelmed at this sign of his love for me and our child. This crèche has travelled with us from South Africa to Santa Monica and it always makes me realize that it’s not how much money you spend but how much love you show.
When my family immigrated from Sicily in 1950, the Nativity set came with us. It was hand-crafted in Italy and has been in my family for many generations. It’s very detailed and realistic and the figures range from 8 to 13 inches tall. My mother passed the set to me about 35 years ago. Through the years, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus were misplaced or broken, so my sister re-created them in ceramics. As you might imagine, the set is very special to me. Each year, this beautiful Nativity scene is a reminder of the generosity and love of my mother and sister, who are no longer with us.
During my first trip to Santa Fe in 1990, I discovered something that would become part of my home each holiday season—a rather simple earth-toned crèche that caught my eye from among the many beautiful and elaborate crèches on display. To me, it affirmed that all families are rich in culture and tradition. Over the years, I have come to understand that our crèche reflects my family's journey of multiculturalism and inclusion. With the grace of God, I have been able to instill the same values in my daughter. As I unwrap the clay figurines ever so carefully prior to Christmas each year, the vision of this Holy Family serves as a sacred reminder that we are all equal in God's loving eyes.
My family and I immigrated from Cuba in June 1965, leaving everything behind, in search of freedom. In December of that year, as penniless as we were, my mother bought this Nativity set. In Cuba, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, so it was important to her to continue that tradition and what better way than with this Nativity. The angel above the manger says Gloria, which is my mother's and my name. The straw has lasted since 1965. It is with great love, and to connect and honor my mother and our Lord that I set out this Nativity every Christmas and it is my hope that my children will continue to do so in the future.
-Gloria Aparicio Vogt-Nilsen
My mother, Maggie, was a lifelong Catholic, who was deeply immersed in her faith. When my parents divorced, my mother’s world was shattered. Rather than give up or give in, she moved to La Jolla where she created a wonderful, new life filled with friends, memories and deepening faith. This Nativity scene is what she chose for her new life–serene, simple pieces of Lladro porcelain presenting the birth of Christ. Each year, she would take it out of its cabinet and put it on display. Some of the pieces have gone missing since she died, but what is left, always reminds me of those wonderful years down in San Diego. She never lost her faith. She truly was a Mother Mary.
-Nanci Linke Ellis