`Our gift to city' is 638 creche sets from around world

It was a Christmas gift from members of the San Antonio North Stake to members of the community.

They gathered 638 creches from around the world, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and displayed them Dec. 5-8. More than 3,500 people came to view the 5th annual Christmas exhibit."This is our gift to the city," said Jim Bratt, the San Antonio North Stake high councilor who coordinated the event. "Our gift to the community is to help them understand the Savior's gift to mankind better."

The stake first began putting on the exhibit five years ago after learning of similar exhibits in other parts of the United States. Since then, members of the community have begun to make the LDS-sponsored display a part of their holiday traditions.

The free exhibit, which also caught the attention of the media, was the topic of several newspaper and magazine articles and was covered by six local television stations this year.

"The reaction is always the same: `Wow, this is neat,' " said Brother Bratt. "It is not something that you can easily describe, you just have to see it to capture what it is."

Creches for the Christmas display were gathered by private owners and collectors. Many were on loan from the personal collections of Church members in San Antonio. However, several members of other churches also participated in the exhibit, including Dorothy Zimmerman who lent the stake dozens of creches from her private collection.

A large variety of art forms was represented in the display, including wood, clay, stone, porcelain and fabric. Many of the Nativity sets were hand-crafted. One was life-size.

Another of the creches was more than 100 years old and came from the Mission Espada, a San Antonio Spanish Mission, explained Brother Bratt.

There was also a children's display in the Primary room, which included puppets and touchable soft Nativities. Children could color pictures and watch a video depicting the Savior's birth.

"It has been very successful," said Brother Bratt. "If we had done this and only one person came and their heart was changed to better understand the Savior and the Church, then it would have been a success."

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