Article submitted by Karen Lake.
Tracy Bodily never had any intention of collecting nativity sets, which are also called crèches, until her friend Jennie Brazel suggested that she start.
Brazel is a devoted collector.
“I just didn’t see the need for it until about ten years ago," Bodily said. "I then realized I wanted my children to have a crèche they could actually touch. That was what started it all.”
She went to work creating a traditional crèche with fabric and stuffing. She decided to put Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the animals, shepherds and wise men surrounding a picnic basket, which would serve as the manger.
Bodily finished a crèche this year that was quite unusual.
“Ms. Brazel had always joked about creating a crèche where Mary looked exhausted and Joseph had extremely large hands," Bodily said. "I took it as my personal task and decided I could do that. I had Mary, Joseph and the baby done years ago, but it didn’t really look like the nativity without an angel and some animals. Just this week I finished creating the sheep, the chicken, and the angel.”
Such a bizarre crèche might not be what you picture at the traditional first Christmas but that is what seems to make the crèche exhibit so popular.
Nativity sets for 2012 included crèches from around the world, including a crèche the size of a pin, puppet sets, and even a pine cone crèche.
Brazel was more than just a devoted collector and friend. She and Bodily worked together with Judy Goodfellow, another devoted collector, to create the local crèche exhibit every December in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Since 2001, Follow the Star, A Living Nativity, has included the crèche exhibit right before the outside nativity presentation with actors and live animals. Well, that was true until 2011 when Brazel, the original crèche collector, moved to Texas.
“We were so concerned about not having the crèche exhibit in 2011, that we decided to serve cookies and hot chocolate before the living nativity,” said Ken Gibson, former Public Affairs Director for the Santa Margarita Stake from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gibson's assistant Lori George said that during the 2011 Follow the Star season “family after family asked me why the crèche show wasn’t part of the living nativity. This year we just had to come up with a plan to bring the crèche exhibit back to Follow the Star.”
Bringing the crèche exhibit back was the plan for the 2012 committee for Follow the Star. The first step was to contact Goodfellow, one of the two major crèche collectors who helped with the exhibit.
“I am in my golden years so this is not something I can do year after year," Goodfellow said. "I am happy to help in 2012 and to keep doing it as long as I am healthy, but we really want those in the RSM and surrounding areas that have crèche collections to come forward so that we can continue this beautiful community tradition.”
Anyone interested in displaying a crèche for 2013 should e-mail Tracy Bodily at firstname.lastname@example.org.