As young boys, Br. Tim Sucher and his brother Dan scrimped all year to purchase this creche for their family.
Friars remember the family crèche
BY TIM SUCHER, OFM
In 1956, when we were 4 and 3 years old, my brother Dan and I spent a few weeks before Christmas with our grandparents, Harry and Collette Hausfeld. Our mother Janice had to undergo major surgery for a kidney stone and was in the hospital.
Grandma spent a lot of time baking and decorating the house in St. Bernard for the holidays. The focal point of the decorations was the family nativity scene. Grandma carefully cleared out a space in the living room where the scene would have a central place. She lined a special cabinet with paper that had a red brick pattern. Each statue was carefully unwrapped and place in the crèche.
Dan and I were in awe of the crib. It impressed us so much we made a promise to save our pennies in the upcoming year so we could purchase a set just like Grandma and Grandpa’s for the following Christmas.
All year we put the money we received into the fund. As Christmas drew near, we enlisted the help of Fr. Timon Cook, OFM, to buy the nativity set for us at St. Francis Bookshop on Vine Street, where he received a religious discount. The bill, which I still have, came to $18.
To prepare for the arrival of the nativity set, our dad Bill designed and had someone make a stable where the statues could be displayed. The unique thing about this wooden stable was that it was big enough to house the statues but would fold up for easier storage.
For Christmas of 1957, our parents, Dan and I proudly displayed our new nativity set and stable under the tree in our house in Price Hill. Over the years it stayed mostly with my mom. Now it stays with me. Each year it reminds me of how special Christmas was at our house.
(You can see this very crèche and many more in Br. Tim’s International Nativity collection, just one part of A Franciscan Christmas. Click here for details, times and dates.)
Treasured by generations
BY CHRIS MEYER, OFM
My mother was a small child in the 1960s when her mother purchased the family crèche. The figurines were made of wax. Much of the paint had rubbed off by the time I was a youngster.
One of my early Christmas memories is going to Frank’s Nursery and Crafts in Fort Wayne, Ind., to purchase new nativity figurines. For sentimental reasons, my mother decided to keep the wax infant Jesus. The animals and angel were in good condition, too, but the others had to go.
Now, after four generations of children, pet cats and dogs, each figurine looks a bit tattered, but my mother still continues the warm family tradition of displaying the crèche under her Christmas tree.
(Br. Chris Meyer is the Liaison for the Council to Sponsored Ministries.)
The memories are priceless
BY BOB BRUNO, OFM
I have no information on the origins of our manger set, but it’s been with our family, along with an eight-car Lionel train, since the first Christmas I can remember as a child.
There’s nothing expensive about it at all, though our lifelong memories of it are priceless. My dad built a fairly wide plywood base for the tree as a support for the train track that ran the perimeter of the platform. The platform was then covered with a white sheet that gave the impression of it being snow-covered. The manger was always placed near the base of the Christmas tree and away from the track. Somewhere we’d get a handful of straw to place inside the manger.
Once all the pieces of the train (siding, track switches, light tower, semaphore signal, tunnel, locomotive, coal car, boxcar, gondola and caboose) were in place, along with all the pieces of the manger (Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus in crib, angels, the Three Kings, shepherds, cows, sheep, camels), a folding green fence made of very lightweight wood was placed around the edge of the platform as a frame for the whole display. Santa Claus always had a hard time placing gifts under the tree with all those accoutrements lying about.
Along with bubble lights and the tree ornaments, the nativity set was part of our family tradition, embedded in our memories from those long-ago Christmases. It continues as part of the annual display at my brother Bennett’s home.
Ah, the days of blissful innocence.
(Fr. Robert Bruno is a Provincial Councilor and Contract Chaplain to Langley AFB.)