Traditions passed down from one generation to the next bring us closer to our loved ones, especially around the holidays. Except when they don’t. What do we do with a tradition centered around togetherness when we find ourselves alone? How do we manage to celebrate when each passing holiday only stands to remind us just how far away we are from extended family?
The holidays can be particularly hard for anyone who isn’t surrounded by those they hold dear, regardless of the reason for the separation. Lisa Carle found this to be particularly true when she first moved to Bonners Ferry. “For the first time in my life I wasn’t surrounded by [my] large family during the holidays,” Lisa remembers. “Something just seemed off for me, and I didn’t like that feeling.”
She reminisced about Christmastime in her hometown, recalling many happy memories with her mom, and she realized an event called Le Creche was a theme throughout those memories. “I decided that if I couldn’t be with her participating in her event, then I would start my own here. And now we are six years in.”
Creche de Noel, or Le Creche (literally French for “crib”), refers to the Christmas manger scene. It is an ancient tradition where figures carved from wood, sculpted from clay or even constructed like puppets are set up to represent the scene of Jesus’ birth.
The first year Lisa decided to have a similar event here in Bonners Ferry, the idea was welcomed by the community. Approximately 150 people brought their family nativity sets to be displayed for what was called “Night of Nativities.” The idea has caught on quickly, and the event has more than doubled since it began in 2014.
Now just around the corner is the sixth annual Night of Nativities in Bonners Ferry, with more than 400 nativity sets expected! Bonners Ferry may not quite compete with the broad international influence present in Lisa’s Air Force hometown, but it has already spread to include regional involvement. Neighboring towns will be involved by bringing their nativities to display, sharing the gift of music, and bringing family and friends to view the scenes together.
At this year’s two-day event, multiple musical groups will share their festive talents with those in attendance. Several local artists or groups will perform, including Paul Bonnell and Friends, Shiloh Rising, Glenda Novinger, Melanie Hoggan, T. Scarlet, and more to be announced. In addition, groups from Spokane, Creston and other surrounding communities will be sharing their talents to bring “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” True, it’s not quite the large church choirs, bell ringers, African choir, and dozens of smaller acts that Lisa remembers as the soundtrack to her memories of Le Creche. Still, each year there are more and more musical participants from a variety of backgrounds and genres.
Most important to Lisa in holding an event like this was to foster unity and love, and that focus has only grown stronger with each year that the festivities expand and the more people who get involved. Emphasis is on inclusion and community, regardless of denomination or religious affiliation. Anyone wanting to attend or contribute to the celebration is welcome. The Night of Nativities is a joyous and festive way to kick off the Christmas season, and the hope is that it can be hosted by a rotation of different churches in years to come.
Lisa’s goal has always been to focus on what many of us have in common instead of the ways in which we are different. This year’s festivities will be hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 6568 Alderson Lane in Bonners Ferry. Even though the LDS church hosts the event, musical acts are not specific LDS groups. Lisa says that anyone wanting to share their talents to proclaim Christ’s coming and give glory to God is welcome! Membership or affiliation with that or any other church is not required—simply the desire to share light and love this holiday season. A short conversation with Lisa on her vision for the event comes back to these principles again and again: focusing on things we have in common and loving!
Over the past five years, the nativities on display have ranged from those made out of playdough and Legos to traditional ceramic, and specialty sets from Africa and Germany.
Do you have a family nativity set you would like to share? All sets are welcome! Please bring your nativity to drop off December 4 between 3 and 8pm or December 5 between 9am and 7pm. And whether or not you have a nativity set to contribute, bring your family and friends Friday, December 6, 5 to 9pm, and Saturday, December 7, 11am to 5pm. Admission is free!