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International creche display in Lewis County through Jan. 5

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TURIN — When it comes to Nativity scenes, or creches, if you’ve seen one, you’ve definitely not seen them all.

More than 50 are on display at St. Hedwig’s Church, 5432 State Route 26, Turin, Sundays through Jan. 5, a unique presentation brought by church member Mary Ann T. Lepkowski.

“They represent different cultures, different countries,” she said, “but they all express the universal message of Christ’s birth.”

She said the term “creche” is interchangeable with “Nativity scene,” and translates to the word “crib.”

Ms. Lepkowski couldn’t choose her favorite creche.

“They’re all my favorite,” she said, which was very apparent as she walked through the display, explaining how she came to possess each one.

Her collection began years ago, but may have first been prompted after a house fire destroyed all her belongings, except two items. One was a German papier mache creche given to her family by a priest.

Many in her collection were gifts, but some she purchased on trips to other countries, ordered specially and stumbled upon in area stores. A few others she has picked up when attending an annual creche convention.

The German scene saved from the fire is on display, along with others created from a variety of different materials.

Hand-carved wooden figures from Laos feature distinctly Asian faces, while a set from Pakistan carved from onyx is especially eye-catching.

A creche from Kenya places baby Jesus in a heart-shaped manger, while yet another display was formed from bread dough.

A set she received from Haiti caught her off guard upon arrival.

“Where are the figures?” she recalled asking when she held what she thought was just a coconut in her hands.

Inside the coconut, however, which serves as the stable, were all the figures wrapped in coconut leaves.

There’s one piece in the collection small enough in its entirety to fit on a 50-cent piece, while another is a larger tabletop version, with figures close to a foot tall.

A wide variety of materials are used, such as olive wood, marble, metal, bamboo and corn husks, just as a wide variety of countries, from Bangladesh to Uzbekistan, are represented.

The creche display is free and open to the public Sundays through Jan. 5 following 11 a.m. mass and between 1-3 p.m.

For more information or to schedule a different viewing time, contact Ms. Lepkowski at 348-6260.

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