A creche is a nativity scene, a three-dimensional representation of the Christmas story. The most famous cresh in Greenwich Village abuts the Saint Anthony of Padua Church at the corner of Houston and Sullivan Streets. Founded in 1866, the parish describes itself as the oldest Catholic Church ministering to Italian-American immigrants in the United States. It was most recently famous for being the site of the funeral of mobster Anthony “The Chin” Gigante.
According to legend, the first cresh (which translates as “crib” or “manger”) was built by St. Francis of Assisi, and the saint often figures, somewhat anachronistically, into the scene portrayed.
Here we see the nuclear family of Mary, Joseph, and J.C., flanked by a pair of angels, who seem very wrapped up in their own thoughts. For his part, the baby Jesus is gesturing expansively like a born entertainer:
On the left are the Three Kings of the Orient, with an unidentified Black guy coming after them. Also featured is a longhorn steer, which the Black guy presumably rode from Texas, and a camel. The Three Kings are bearing gifts, of course–frankincense and myrrh, which they could have copped from the church behind them, rather than dragged all the way from the Orient:
On the right are some random peasants carrying further gifts, principally doves and lambs:
And don’t forget the donkey, who’s just chillin’ in the background:
The Saint Anthony cresh–nearly a city block in length!–attracts crowds of Villagers and tourists on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, and nothing defines the season around here quite so much as the appearance of the St. Anthony cresh before the holiday, and disappearance afterwards.