Merry Christmas to all!

The story behind the creation of the crêche at the Cathedral

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Photo: Jay Ouellet

The congregation of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity gather around the unique crêche or nativity scene made by Minum Blair, who can be seen in this photo directly above the “humpty-backed” camel. Everyone gathered around and joined in the singing of “Silent Night.”

We wanted a really special photo for the front page of the last issue of the QCT before the holidays, so we contacted the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in late November to see if our photographer Jay Ouellet could take a photo of their charming crêche or nativity scene. We learned that it would be set up during the annual Christmas pageant on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 17.

We also learned about how the figures in this particular crêche came to be created. We’ll let Miriam “Minum” Blair tell her story.

“When we first came back to Quebec in 1998, the crêche consisted of about three or four very ’60s-design unpainted styrofoam figures. I seem to remember someone telling me that they were really just maquettes [models] for some bronze figures, but that had never materialized.

“I was in the choir at that time, and during the Christmas service I remember whispering to [my daughter] Louisa who was singing beside me that they were so awful, and boasting, not seriously, that I could probably do better. At the end of the service I was horrified to hear Louisa telling the Dean that ‘Mum has said she will make a new crêche!’ So that was how it all began, I think around the year 2000.

“I had made a larger-than-life violin-playing papier-mâché figure a year or two before, so I had an idea of how to proceed. It started the first year with the basic Holy Family in papier-mâché – Mary, Joseph, three wise men, an ox, an ass, a lamb and the manger, plus baby Jesus.

“Each year I added to it; the next year a clump of shepherds (they are my favourites), then a camel, a sheep, various farm animals and birds, and the angel. Each year I have been asked what I am going to add this year, but there isn’t much room left in the chancel, so the creatures are having to get smaller and smaller (as I get older and older). This year it is a black cat, curled up beside the manger.

“It has been such a great project for me, and I have to say that I have grown to love all my people and creatures, and am always terribly happy to see them again when they are brought down from their hiding place up in the balcony, and very sad when they have to go back.

“We don’t usually have a rehearsal which would include the crêche figures. What usually happens is that the animals, et cetera, are brought down to the back of the church the day before the pageant, and I check them over and do some repairs, and a friend helps me hang the angel. During the service, the children carry all the figures and animals up to the front (this is a riot!) and I help place them.”

If you haven’t seen the crêche figures, they will be in place for the next two weeks at the Cathedral. There will be a candlelight choral Christmas Eve service on Sunday, Dec. 24, at 11 p.m. to which all are welcome.