Land of Enchanting Nativities: A Biennial Convention of Friends of the Crèche. November 8-12, 2019

Land of Enchanting Nativities Santa Fe November 2019

Friends of the Crèche is a national American and Canadian club for people interested in nativities. It has had biennial conventions since 2001. Santa Fe will be the location of the next biennial convention this November. We invite you to attend!

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New Mexico is called the “Land of Enchantment” because it is so different and special. Our biennial convention in Santa Fe this year is called “Land of Enchanting Nativities”. We will meet at La Fonda, a famous historic hotel right on the plaza of Santa Fe. This hotel has an amazing art collection throughout the hotel and inside each guest room. There are free tours of this art, guided by docents. Just ask the concierge in the lobby.

The focus of our convention will be on the nativities of the American Southwest. On the mezzanine of La Fonda will be a special exhibit of fine southwest nativities, borrowed from many collectors, and displayed inside locked cases. Some of the artists who made these nativities are no longer alive.

Nicolas Otero Retablo Nativity

Would you like to add to your nativity collection? There will be one market where you can buy nativities directly from the Pueblo and Navajo Indians who made them. As usual at our conventions, there will be another market where you can buy nativities from dealers whose merchandise may be from outside the southwest.

Would you like to reduce your nativity collection? Bring those nativities to the convention for the “Silent Auction”. The sale of these nativities will bring money to Friends of the Crèche and find new homes for the nativities you are donating. Click here to send Susan photos of these nativities, if you can.

Alexander GirardWe will begin on Friday, November 8th, with an evening reception at the Museum of International Folk Art on “Museum Hill”. The Girard Wing of that museum has many nativities on display, because Alexander Girard loved and collected nativities. He essentially created the entire field of southwest nativities when he asked Sallie Wagner to encourage her Indian friends to make nativities. Girard will be given a posthumous award for his splendid and long lasting contribution. When you view the Girard wing, you will be asked to find as many nativities as possible. There will also be live music and food to nibble. There will be several southwest nativities from the museum’s collection on display in Lloyd’s Treasure Chest, which is at a lower level, accessible by an elevator. If you are still hungry after the reception, you might like to have dinner at one of Santa Fe’s many good restaurants. A list of restaurants will be given to you, with choices ranging from affordable to fine dining.

The formal opening of the convention will be on Saturday morning at La Fonda’s ballroom. The mayor of Santa Fe will give a proclamation. Later that morning, another mayor, the mayor of Belen, New Mexico, will give a talk about defending the public nativity in his town. Belen is south of Albuquerque. Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem.

Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova

Susan Topp Weber will speak on the subject of Southwest nativities from the different cultures we have in New Mexico, such as Pueblo, Navajo, New Mexico Spanish, and Anglo. She is the author of an award-winning book on the subject.

Land of Enchanting Nativities: A Biennial Convention of Friends of the Creche. November 8-12, 2019

Christopher Toya from Jemez Pueblo will speak on the unique custom of “Bethlehem” at that village. This is a live indoor nativity consisting of a husband and wife who allow their pueblo home to become “Bethlehem” between Christmas Eve and Epiphany while they host the wooden baby from the village church. Chris will have photos of various different Jemez Pueblo versions of “Bethlehem”, from its beginnings to the present. Jemez is a pueblo where photography is not allowed, so it will be a rare privilege to see them. Chris Toya is the first person to research this subject. Don’t miss this talk!

Pat and Persingula, Jemez

After lunch on Saturday, we will see a Spanish Colonial Christmas play called Los Pastores (The Shepherds). The amateur group of actors is from a catholic church in Belen, New Mexico. They own a rare surviving colonial script. The play has a musical aspect, and they sing and play music during the play. The script is in Spanish.

Los Pasores, Santa Fe, NM

Charlie Carrillo is a well-known Santa Fe maker of religious images. These makers are called santeros in New Mexico (but not in any other Spanish speaking country). He has personally taught most of the artists who sell at Spanish Market on the Santa Fe plaza in late July. Years ago, Charlie designed a New Mexico style nativity, which was reproduced for a few years, but is no longer available. It was very popular and those who own one feel very fortunate.

Charlie Carrillo original retablo nativity

Charlie Carrillo Poster 2005Charlie spoke at our convention in 2005 and he designed the logo for that convention. He will speak again at this convention.

Charlie survived a serious automobile accident two years ago and we are lucky he is still alive.

After his talk, we will enjoy New Mexico hot chocolate and Susan’s hand-formed biscochitos, the official state cookie of New Mexico.

BiscochitosOn Sunday morning, after the annual meeting of Friends of the Crèche, Kathy Chilton will speak on how to repair broken nativities. She spoke to us in 2005. Her talk is titled, “Oops, I Just Dropped My Best Nativity. Now What Do I Do?

Sunday afternoon, there will be demonstrations in La Terazza at La Fonda by New Mexico Spanish artists in a variety of techniques, such as wheat straw applique, woodcarving, painting, or a colonial embroidery stitch called colcha. You will be able to watch, ask questions, and buy directly from the artists. The various markets and exhibits will be open till 3:30.
There will be a service available for packing and shipping any treasures you purchase.

Louise Ortega Nativity

Also on Sunday afternoon, Susan Weber will give briefings to those planning to go to Jemez Pueblo Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th. If you have paid to be on one of our rented buses, you will be fed in a pueblo home. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive to Jemez Pueblo. It is a public event.

Sunday evening, we can meet at La Terazza, the lovely hall with dramatic second floor views of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. We will enjoy fellowship and drinks with new and old friends prior to the formal banquet in the ballroom that ends the biennial convention in Santa Fe.

On Monday, some of our attendees may be exploring Santa Fe and Taos or Los Alamos and Bandelier or Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Others will be going on a tour of homes with fine nativity collections, a sold out event. Some attendees will be going to Jemez Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th.

If you have not yet registered for Land of Enchanting Nativities, but are interested, please do not delay, as it is likely to sell out. If you have never been to Santa Fe, come and discover this international destination in the Land of Enchantment!

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New Mexico map of the Pueblos

Advent in Santa Fe 2018

Spanish Colonial Play Los Pastores Santa Fe NM

December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day. My Albuquerque friend, Kathy Chilton, has a family tradition where everyone writes a letter to Saint Nicholas on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, telling him what to bring them for Christmas. One year, Kathy had a houseguest from Nepal, who had never heard of Santa, but who was willing to write a letter with the other family members. When everyone was asleep, Kathy and her husband read his letter. He asked for a picture of Santa in a glass ball, so he could show his family in Nepal when he returned. Kathy realized he was asking for a Santa in a snow globe. She looked everywhere but could not find one. Reluctantly, she got him a practical Christmas gift instead.

Santa Snow GlobeOn Christmas Eve, Kathy always had a dinner at her home, asking the guests to bring a Christmas gift. One guest brought a gift for the man from Nepal. She said to Kathy in the kitchen, “I don’t know what he’ll do with it, and it’s a bit heavy, but…” To Kathy’s amazement, it was a Santa in a snow globe. Now Kathy says she believes in Santa Claus.

That story and many more are in the book about my shop, Susan’s Christmas Shop.

Santa Fe is starting to look like Christmas. The electric lights in the plaza trees were dramatically lit the night after Thanksgiving, preceded by a loud countdown by the crowd on the plaza and followed by great cheers.


It’s all fun, but it was a bit like Time Square with so many brightly colored electric lights. The quietly burning candles nestled in sand inside their paper bags on the ground were overlooked, even trampled on by the enormous crowd on the plaza that night. I’m glad I have seen Christmas displays in past years where the serene beauty of hundred of glowing luminarias or farolitos inspired awe, quiet contemplation and anticipation, heightened by the fact that the beauty was only for a few hours and would disappear by dawn.

Spanish Colonial Play Los Pastores Santa Fe NM

Sunday night was Las Posadas on the plaza. The Santa Fe plaza version has included the role of the devil since 1982 when the neighborhood on San Antonio Street agreed to perform their unique version on the plaza. The devil character was borrowed from another Spanish Colonial play Los Pastores. Saint Michael fights the devil in this play and always wins. A group from Belen, New Mexico, will perform Los Pastores at the convention of nativity collectors in Santa Fe next November. They own a rare script from New Mexico’s colonial days. Belen is the Spanish name for Bethlehem.

Last year, the devil’s role in Las Posadas on the plaza was censored and expelled, and the public missed that comic feature. This year, the devil’s role returned to delight the crowd as it followed Mary and Joseph around the plaza, looking for room at the inn. Finally, they all entered the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors for an hour of wonderful local, live Christmas music in English and Spanish under the stars. Don’t miss this event if you are in Santa Fe.


The model train in the lobby of First National Bank on the plaza begins running today, delighting children of all ages till Christmas.Christmas-Model-Train-Santa-Fe-NM Engineer

Here is an engineer I know. He’s wearing a real Rio Grande Railroad hat, and his vest is real railroad uniform too.

Does this make you want to come to Santa Fe at Christmas?
If you live too far away to do this, I send my affectionate greetings, wherever you live in this wide world.

Happy Advent!

Susan Topp Weber