When the word crèche is used the first thing and, really the only thing, that comes to my mind is the place parents send their offspring to be cared for by other people or a communal nest kind of affair where young animals are cared for by other animals. Same thing, different species really. I had never noticed that this word had a different meaning as well.
I was alerted to this other meaning on Thursday when I was reading the news and was interested to find that crèche is also used as the word for a nativity scene. Alarmingly I found this out from an article with the headline ‘Nativity Scene Depicts Gang Violence’. Yikes!!
After reading this headline I immediately envisaged the traditional nativity scene but in my head now the three wise men were heavily armed and kicked the stable door in. I wasn’t sure how modern gang violence could ever be related to the innocent scene most of us were bought up with.
In Melbourne when you mention a public christmas display most would immediately think of the Myer windows. Myers is a large well-known department store that every year fills their front windows with an ostentatious display of themed christmasness, things like jolly mechanical Santas slowly waving to the passers-by and elves popping comically out of beautifully wrapped boxes or kangaroos with their pouches stuffed with gifts. The unveiling of these windows is usually mentioned in the news and people with over-excited children queue for hundreds of metres to get the chance to wander slowly past and see what the christmas story is this year. The Myer windows are something of a tradition here and I remember going many times with my parents as a child.
A quick search of the interweb showed me that the Myer windows are unlikely to ever show the scenes depicted in Tegucigalpa’s Mal Multiplaza, the shopping mall in Honduras that houses the 100m sq crèche referred to in the news article that captured my attention. Scenes of violent crime. A scattered crowd of green plastic army men and other random people gathered around some plastic tubes representing the last hiding place of Gaddafi. Scenes of police corruption with a cardboard sign ‘victims of violence’ propped up in front of lines of wooden blocks resembling coffins, all attended by formally clad students. Not very christmassy.
The former Honduran foreign minister Fernando Martinez is its creator and it appears that he has been building these crèche that depict political events since the mid 80’s. I wonder how aware the children seeing this diorama with their parents are of the political messages behind them? Honduras apparently has the worlds highest murder rate so I suspect that most kids there see more crime than they do Santa. Hopefully those kids shuffling past the happy scenes in the Myer windows this year realize just how lucky they are.