There’s a new critter in the crèche at the Cathedral

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

A turtle, the newest animal in the crèche at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, is checked out by the donkey, the goat and the chicken. Visitors to the church on Christmas Eve also had the opportunity to view the addition to the scene.

Another creature has been added to the crèche scene at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, made by parishioner Miriam “Minum” Blair.

Her daughter Louisa Blair reported, “It is a turtle, which is particularly significant this year as we are starting to incorporate more Indigenous elements into the service, and in many Indigenous spiritualities the Earth is known as Turtle Island, as it was a turtle that rose out of the sea.”

Those who made the pilgrimage to the Cathedral on Christmas Eve were able to get a close view of the nativity scene and the figures that are in it, all made by hand with papier-mâché and “all kinds of inner architecture including chicken wire, sticks and other things too numerous to mention,” Louisa Blair said.

“This December, the crèche has been more than ever front and centre – not just for the Christmas Eve pilgrimage, but also in [Bishop Bruce Myers’] amazing online Service of Lessons and Carols,” she explained. “Bruce starts off sitting right in the middle of the crèche beside Mary…. I think people have started to appreciate it in a new way – perhaps because during this sad COVID time, the crèche figures ‘people’ the otherwise empty church in a very comforting way.”

In 2017, Minum Blair explained to the QCT how she began creating these figures. “When we first came back to Quebec [from England] in 1998, the crèche consisted of three or four very 1960s-design unpainted styrofoam figures. I seem to remember someone telling me that they were really just maquettes [models] for some bronze figures.

“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 crèche!’ So that was how it all began, I think around the year 2000. It started the first year with the basic Holy Family – Mary, Joseph, three wise men, an ox, an ass, a lamb and the manger, plus baby Jesus.”

“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. Since then, three shepherds and an angel have been added, and the following creatures, great and small: a cat, camel, chicken, goat, goose, owl, pig, sheep and the latest addition, a turtle. It has been such a great project for me, and I have grown to love all my people and creatures,” Minum Blair said.