Keep Christ in Christmas Nativity display celebrates 60 years in Malibu 

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Families gather on Sunday, Dec. 17 for the Keep Christ in Christmas display on Webb Way. The crèche celebrated the 60th annual tradition this year. Photos Courtesy of Mary Motley. 

The nonprofit has been struggling with permits requested by the city and is asking for community support

A Malibu Christmas tradition continues as yearly créche display on Webb Way and Pacific Coast Highway returns and is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The créche was assembled the weekend after Thanksgiving, and since then, community members have gathered at the to sing, share, and connect during the holiday season. 

Mary Motley, president of Keep Christ in Christmas (KCIC), is responsible for the yearly Christmas display tradition in Malibu.

“It’s a good place for the whole family,” Motley said. 

This Christmas season had three local churches participating in the advent Sunday events at the créche.

The first Sunday event was led by by Our Lady of Malibu, the second week was led by Serra Retreat, and the third was led by Saint Aidan’s Episcopal Church on Dec. 17. Choir members were also in attendance. 

Last year, the KCIC celebrated its 59th anniversary. While the display is run by volunteers, Motley also expressed her concern about the lack of support they have received from the community and the city.

“Without support from the community and finances, people not knowing about the créche display, we build without nothing,” Motley said. “If we don’t get more than 40 people supporting this, we can’t do it, we’re a nonprofit, whatever people donate, that’s all we have to work with.”

Motley said they are also struggling with the permits requested by the city. She said due to the White Tire Memorial, they had to pay more to adjust their permits.

“This year, the city had us do a whole other permit and another permit, and we just can’t afford to do the permits without support,” Motley said.

The tradition began in 1963, when Malibu resident Mary Kuepper went to the Malibu Chamber of Commerce with the idea of setting up a community Christmas display. 

The result was Malibu’s first community Christmas display of a Christmas tree and a painted sign of the Madonna and infant Jesus displayed at the corner of Webb Way and PCH.

In 2017, volunteers lowered the roof of the créche to help make the display more mobile and the following year a new tile roof was installed. 

Between 2020 and 2021, KCIC spent approximately $16,000 on the restoration of the 11 wooden statues in the display. Restorations repaired cracks in the wood and repainted the fading stained oil colors on the statues.

A protective mesh was also added to the display within the last five years to prevent theft and vandalism. 

Motley thanked Patricia and Marty Morehart at the Malibu Feed Bin for providing the hay for the créche. 

“The day that the créche was built, they donated hay, so it’s been over 50 years that they donated the hay that surrounds the statues inside, and they truly deserve recognition for all their years of donations,” Motley said. 

“They also sell the best Christmas trees ever!” Motley said.

Motley also thanked Frank Cursley, Damon Geisler, Fred Brostoviczz, Carlos Rosales, and Brian Merrick, who helped assemble the créche this year and almost every year. 

Motley said the statues that are displayed at the créche are nearly 70 years old. 

“A couple of years ago they were all wood rot and we had a specialist come in a redo them,” Motley said. “There’s only a couple of people in the world that does what she does, restoring valuable statues.”

Motley encourages families to attend the final event on Sunday, Dec. 24, at 1 p.m. on Webb Way and PCH. Parking is available on Civic Center Way. 

Residents who would like to volunteer or contribute to KCIC and the créche tradition are encouraged to contact Motley at flygurl33555@aol.com or send mail to KCIC’s P.O. Box 833 Malibu, CA 90265.