NEW HAVEN – With its ancestral heritage, charming landscapes and villages and a culture deeply rooted in spirituality, one may say that every day is Christmas in Germany.
Some of that tradition and faith will be featured in the form of crèches from Germany at the Knights of Columbus Museum’s 12th annual Christmas exhibition, which runs until Jan. 29, 2017.
The show – “Crèches of Germany: Tradition & Faith” – includes 26 German Nativity scenes. Also on display are 14 crèches from the Knights of Columbus Museum’s own collection of crèches from throughout the world. Among those on display is a hand-carved cedar Nativity scene from Mexico and a large 120-square-foot Baroque Neapolitan diorama.
“Germany has a long tradition of devotion to crèches, especially from the southern region of Bavaria,” said Simone Braguglia, coordinator of the exhibition, which again this year was assembled from the internationally renowned Museo del Presepio of Rome, Italian Friends of the Crèche Association and the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, Penn.
“These crèches typically use more wood and reflect the German landscape of villages, forests and mountains,” he said. In contrast, he noted that Italian crèches, many of which come from the Naples area, incorporate the ancient ruins of that country.
According to the museum, the crèches reflect the customs, rituals and beliefs of Christmas in Germany that have been handed down for generations to announce Frohe Weihnachten – Merry Christmas! In some parts of the country, Nativity scenes are displayed in churches throughout the year.
“Last year, we displayed Nativities from central Europe,” said museum curator Bethany Sheffer. “So this year it’s nice just to focus on those from one country.”
Although its German origins are uncertain, the crèche or Nativity scene presumably was introduced by Franciscan friars. The oldest recorded German crèche was housed in the Monastery of Füssen in Bavaria and dates to 1252, shortly after the arrival of the followers of Saint Francis, the “poor man of Assisi,” who developed the custom of a Nativity scene some 30 years earlier.
From the 16th century on, the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits) is credited with spreading the tradition of the Nativity scene. Records from this period reveal that German monasteries, abbeys and churches added elaborate Nativity scenes, according to a museum press release.
In response to requests for crèche accessories, markets known as Christkindlesmärkte (Christ Child Markets) sprang up and began to flourish in such cities as Munich and Nuremberg.
The exhibition of crèches is just a part of the museum’s annual Christmas celebration.
A Christmastime Family Day will be held there from noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 31, with children’s crafts and live music from Joyful Noise.
The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 16th annual Christmas Tree Festival opens on Saturday, Dec. 3, with a celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The event will offer children’s crafts, a visit from Saint Nicholas and live music by the Yuletide Carolers. The Christmas Tree Festival features colorful and creative decorations as students from 24 schools across Connecticut trim the museum trees with handmade ornaments featuring the customs and heritage of a German Christmas.
The museum, located at 1 State St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with free admission and parking. More information is available at 203-865-0400 or www.kofcmuseum.org.