The Story of the Village Crèche

Since 1954, the Christmas Manger scene at the corner of Drake and Shawnee Run Roads has been a part of Village holiday activities and an element of Indian Hill’s history.


At its inception, the Crèche was constructed at Stephan Field by volunteers from Armstrong Church and Indian Hill Church as a rough lean-to housing the Holy Family and animals.  The animals included a cow and calf, a donkey, a colt, and some sheep– all borrowed from the Chatfield family. A Crèche Dedication Service, open to all, was led by local ministers. Music included choirs from the two churches, the High School Glee Club, the Elementary School Chorus, and a brass ensemble .


On two Saturdays early in December, church members pieced the shelter together, and then enjoyed lunch served by the ladies of both churches. Basic in design, the structure used lots of bales of straw, and was lighted for nighttime viewing. The original mannequins were a gift from Pogue’s Department Store: and since only female mannequins were available, facial hair was added to Joseph to make him appear more masculine.


In 1956, the Crèche was moved to the northeast corner of the intersection so that the first Twelfth Night Festival could be held on the old baseball diamond at the southeast corner. Families brought their discarded Christmas trees, placed them on a pile, to be burned after a brief Service. Celebrating the beginning of the ceremony included group singing, with Salvation Army accompaniment. Ushers were Explorer Scouts, and the Rangers and Fire Department managed security. At the conclusion of the service, the tall pile of trees was set on fire–a huge spectacle for all who attended.


In 1971 a Christmas Eve Community Carol Sing was organized, with songbooks for the informal get-together at the Crèche. Invited to “bring children, bring candles”, families shared holiday songs with fellow residents at this Carol fest for almost 20 years, until the late 1980’s. Also, there is now no longer a Crèche Dedication Service.


The Public Works Department took over the construction and maintenance of the scene in 1967, securing the live animals which were always part of the Village crèche. One year, to procure a donkey, the Service Department Manager drove to Louisville to borrow one. The next year, the Village agreed to purchase Sara, the donkey used for many years in the scene. Occasional vandalism has included the theft of baby Jesus, decapitation of one of the Wise Men, and disrobing all the figures. Once, a donkey was stolen from the tableau, and never seen again.  With the 1980 EPA laws regulating pollution, the Twelfth Night tree burning ceremony was brought to an end. The clothing of the mannequins was once sewn and maintained by a Village mother/daughter team for over a decade, and is now assembled by a dedicated member of the Village administrative staff since 2001.


Over the last four decades, the Crèche has remained a traditional feature of the village during the holidays. Many residents enjoy the symbolism and the simplicity of this beautiful seasonal display. Always open to the public, it is a charming aspect of life in Indian Hill.