Burkhardt Family Creche a holiday highlight at the museum

10 Dec

In this month’s Webster History Bit, I introduce you to the shining star of the Webster Museum’s holiday decorations, the Burkhardt Family Creche.

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We can always count on the Webster Museum to be especially beautiful and sparkly this time of year, with holiday decorations and miniature Christmas trees sprinkled throughout the displays.  But for more than 40 years, the real star of the show has been the Burkhardt Family Creche.  

This beautiful, hand-carved creche, on display near the museum’s entrance, has a beautiful history all its own. This creche was made in Germany by C. Jess, a church architect. He made one piece a year between 1918 and 1944, each year giving the newly carved piece to his sister Freda in Frankfurt, Germany. 

Freda and her husband Henrick kept the creche hidden during World War II so that it wouldn’t be destroyed in the frequent bombings. It would have been passed on to their only son, but he was killed during the war, so they sent it to Freda’s brother, Rudolph Burkhardt Sr., who lived with his family on Salt Rd. in Webster. 

The Burkhardts displayed the creche in their home for decades before donating it to the museum in the late 1970s, where it’s been a treasured centerpiece of the museum’s holiday decorations ever since. 

The scene has roughly two dozen pieces, all hand carved out of linden wood. In addition to Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary and the Three Kings, it also includes a shepherd boy, angels, sheep, camels, oxen, and even an elephant.

The Burkhardt Family Creche will be on display at the Webster Museum until January, when museum volunteers will painstakingly wipe each piece with oil and pack them away until next year. So come see it while you can, and while you’re there, make sure to vote for your favorite community-decorated Christmas tree during the museum’s Festival of Trees. Votes will be accepted through Dec. 31.     

The Webster Museum is located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org to learn more. 

Here are few closer-up shots from the creche:

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(posted 12/10/2022)

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