Anyone who has driven through Malibu at Christmas anytime during that past 54 years knows that the corner of Webb Way and Pacific Coast Highway has been home to a Christmas crèche. It’s easy to drive by the installation of nearly life-sized wooden figures without a second look, but to do so is to miss out on a remarkable bit of artistry and local history.
Malibu resident Mary Kuepper came up with the idea of setting up a community holiday display in 1963. She named her project “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and enlisted the support of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce to install a Christmas tree and a painted sign proclaiming “Peace on Earth” with a silhouette of the Madonna and infant Jesus on it at the street corner.
The following year, the Chamber and four Malibu churches—Shepherd by the Sea Lutheran, Malibu United Methodist, Malibu Presbyterian and Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church, began raising funds for a more ambitious display. The first crèche was rented. Within a few years there was enough money to commission sculptures from a workshop in the Tyrolean village of Ortezay, or Urtijei, at the base of the Alps. The holy family was joined by shepherds. sheep, a donkey, a camel and the three kings.
Every year, volunteers assemble the stable and arrange the figures in time for the first Sunday of Advent, and remove the display after Epiphany on January 6. Each Sunday in advent, community members gather at the crèche to sing carols. The four Sundays are divided up between the participating churches, with a pastor from each beginning the caroling with a prayer or short sermon.
Several of the statues have been stolen over the years, but somehow the volunteers have always managed to raise the funds to replace the figures, and twice, the stolen items have been returned.
In September 1970, the Serra Retreat where the figures were stored was destroyed by the Chatsworth-Malibu Fire. The disaster resulted in the destruction of 400 homes, and 10 people died. The Malibu nativity figures were found in the ashes of the storage room, a little scorched but still intact.
Malibu’s crèche continues to be a tradition. It’s been joined in recent years by the local Jewish community’s roadside Menorah, bearing the message “Lighten Up.” Side-by-side reminders that the spirit of “peace on earth, goodwill to all” is alive and well along this stretch of the California Coast.
Community caroling at the Malibu Crèche will take place on the four Sundays of Advent, starting December 3, at 1 p.m. All are welcome.
LOOKING FOR SOME MORE HOLIDAY SPIRIT?
The 13th annual Malibu Woodie Parade is scheduled for Sunday, December 10, 3-5 p.m. The annual surf-themed event features vintage woodies that parade from Paradise Cove and winds up at the Malibu Village shopping center parking lot, on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road where live music and refreshments continue the celebration.
Ice skating returns to Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica for the holiday season. The TO rink is located at The Lakes Shopping Center, 2200 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Tickets can be purchased onsite at the ice rink ticket window. All tickets are $15 and includes admission and skate rental.
The Santa Monica Ice skating rink can be found at the corner of Fifth St. and Arizona Ave., through January 15. Skate rental and all-day admission is $15. Lockers are available for $5. http://www.downtownsm.com/ice-at-santa-monica
Ballet for Topanga’s Nutcracker is an annual tradition for many canyon families. Three performances are scheduled for Friday, December 8 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 9, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, December 10, 2 p.m., at the Topanga Community House, 1440 N Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga, CA 90290. balletfortopanga.com
Tchaikovsky fans who can’t get enough of the holiday treat can catch the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Pacific Festival Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker, Dec. 16-17, at the Fred Kavli Theatre on Thousand Oaks Blvd. Tickets are $47, $39, $31.
For many Angelenos, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Messiah Sing Along. With the orchestra on stage, Artistic Director Grant Gershon will conduct an audience of 2,200 singers in this joyful performance. Participants are encouraged to BYOS (bring your own score), but scores are also available for sale in the lobby. This event sells out every year. http://lamasterchorale.org/messiah-sing-along.