Malibu Créche celebrates 59th anniversary

Keep Christ in Christmas brings back Christmas spirit to Webb Way and PCH

A Malibu Christmas tradition continues as the yearly créche display on Webb Way and Pacific Coast Highway returns for its 59th anniversary.

This Christmas season has three local churches participating in the advent Sunday events at the créche. The first Sunday event was led by Serra Retreat, the second was led by Our Lady of Malibu and the third will be led by Saint Aidan’s Episcopal Church on Dec. 17.

Mary Motley is president of Keep Christ in Christmas (KCIC), the nonprofit foundation responsible for the yearly Christmas display, and she said the display is a beautiful tradition in Malibu.

“It’s our Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center; it’s our tradition,” Motley said. “We get to bring the real meaning of what Christmas is all about. The birth of Christ, hope, love, peace, joy, and unity.”

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.

The following year, after another request was made for a Christmas display, the Chamber of Commerce suggested that five churches of Malibu come together for a more ambitious display. 

Led by Kuepper, the project was named Keep Christ in Christmas.

Saint Aidan’s Episcopal, Shepherd by the Sea Lutheran, Malibu United Methodist, Malibu Presbyterian (now Malibu Pacific), and Our Lady of Malibu came together to bring the first nativity scene to Malibu. The churches raised funds to rent a créche in 1964, and were able to design and create their own créche by 1965.

Soon, the créche was adorned by handmade wooden statues crafted by Italian artist Goffredo Moroder. The statues were made in the Tyrolean village of Ortezay, at the base of the Alps. 

The statues have since made an appearance in Malibu every Christmas season with the exception of 2020, when KCIC replaced them with a mural of the nativity scene due to concerns of vandalism. 

As the tradition nears its 60th anniversary, Keep Christ in Christmas has continued to upgrade and improve the créche to ensure it is a staple in the community for many years to come.

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 said she hopes KCIC will continue to get the support of the community to keep this tradition alive.

“We get lots of different people come by with their families, people that grew up with this,” Motley said. “They now bring back their children and it’s this tradition that we hope to keep alive forever.” 

Motley said she hopes KCIC could grow in support as the créche nears its 60th year. She said during the COVID-19 pandemic, some programs between KCIC and local churches had to be let go, but she hopes to reconnect with churches for this anniversary year.

She hopes the community could come together to help continue upgrading the créche and host more events during the Christmas season.

“We need to make sure that in the 60th year that we revamp our whole system. We want more people to volunteer,” Motley said. “We’d love the participation of the different churches and schools, we had let that go for right now, but hopefully that will be brought back to life.”

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.

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