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Joy to the World: Crèches of Central Europe


  • KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS MUSEUM 1 State Street New Haven, CT, 06511 United States (map)

The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 11th annual Christmas exhibition, Joy to the World: Crèches of Central Europe, opens Nov. 21 with more than 75 Nativity scenes on loan with origins from seven nations: Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

Items on display represent the rich artistic tradition and cultural heritage of the region, such as the Polish szopka, the German Christmas pyramid, the wooden crèche of Austria and the paper Nativity of Czech Republic.

Crèches have been a popular part of Western Christianity for more than 800 years. Introduced in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi, they served as a way for everyday people to reflect on Jesus’ modest birth. Through the centuries, crèches have developed into large and ornate displays in communities as well as humble presentations for homes.

The Knights of Columbus Museum has acquired crèches from various parts of the world. In addition to the featured exhibition, on display this year are seven items from the museum’s collection. Among them are a hand-carved cedar Nativity scene from Mexico, three Polish szopki and a 120-square-foot Baroque Neapolitan (Italian) diorama.

The museum’s 15th annual Christmas Tree Festival, featuring 24 trees decorated with handmade ornaments and trim by Connecticut schoolchildren, opens with a celebration Dec. 5. Other events include a Christmastime Family Day scheduled for Dec. 27 and a presentation on the history and distinction of the szopka, “The Polish Nativity: A Beautiful Palace for the King of Kings,” by Connecticut artist and iconographer Mark Czarnecki, planned for Jan. 16, 2016.

Joy to the World: Crèches of Central Europe and the Christmas Tree Festival continue until Jan. 31, 2016. The museum, at 1 State Street in New Haven, Connecticut, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) with free admission and parking.