Crèche revival among Indonesian Catholics overtakes Christmas tree and Santa Claus
The crèche was almost lost in recent years. Now communities across the country are reviving the tradition following the release of Pope Francis’s Admirabile signum on 1st December. Catholics in Cawas are setting up a crèche after work, says local pastor. Figurine production is back.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The crèche is making a comeback, not only in churches and religious communities, but also in the homes of Indonesian Catholics.
Over the last few years, consumerism and shopping had overshadowed this simple but powerful expression of faith. In shops and malls, Santa Claus and the Christmas tree had become the new symbols of Christ’s birth, as tokens to attract more customers.
However, something unexpected happened this year, which reversed the trend and gave the crèche another chance: Pope Francis’s apostolic letter Admirabile signum. Published on 1st December, the letter renewed enthusiasm among Catholics in Indonesia for an almost lost tradition.
Since its release, the letter has been front and centre. A few days ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI) released a translation by its Documentation and Information Department.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Catholic families in Central Java used to set up a Nativity Scene and the Adoration of the Magi in their homes. Parents and children used humble materials like unused paper, grass and soil from river beds. Only when the set up was ready were the statuettes of the various characters placed in and around the grotto.
For Indonesian Catholics, setting up the crèche was not just a game. In every parish, the tradition expressed a strong sense of solidarity among young people, encouraged by their parents to show their Christian faith and communicate to others God’s solidarity towards humanity, which manifested itself through the birth of the Child Jesus in a manger.
This year, Indonesia’s Catholic communities can find inspiration in the Admirabile Signum. One of them is the parish in Cawas, Klaten, a district in Central Java, where Fr Joko Purwanto is pastor. "Our community is setting up a nativity scene in the church,” he told AsiaNews. “We work on the project, evenings, after the faithful come home from work and have more time.”
Another place is the church in Nanga Mahap (picture 2), a village eight hours from Pontianak, capital of West Kalimantan province (Borneo). “We still have to finish ours," said Sister Ludovika, an Augustinian nun of Divine Mercy (OSA) who serves the local parish.
Speaking from Singkawang Sister Maria Seba, SIFC, said that “even in Balai Karangan, where I was born, they are making a crèche.” Likewise, work is underway in Entikong, West Kalimantan, the parish closest to the border with the Malaysian state of Sabah (pictures 2-4). Here, people "are working hard,” said Sister Ayu Kristina, SMFA.
The renewed interest in the crèche has also had a strong impact on the production of Christmas figurines. In the past, they were usually made by craftspeople in the villages around Promasan parish (Yogyakarta), where the shrine of Sendangsono is located, the most important and popular place of Marian worship in all of Indonesia.
Since the 1980s, craftspeople have been making figurines in cities and rural areas elsewhere in the country as well.