US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Building a Baby's bed

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It takes all of Advent for one family to build the crèche—one good deed at a time.

By Guest Blogger Ellen Chmiel

One of my favorite family traditions at this time of year is to build the crèche slowly over the course of advent. We put out the crèche at the beginning of Advent, and put the Mary, Joseph, and donkey figurines elsewhere, ready to begin their journey to the crèche. It’s best not to use valuable figurines for this. It’s easy to find dime store ones for little fingers.

We then place a small amount of straw in the crèche, and keep extra pieces of straw—dried grass and reeds work well—nearby. When someone does a good deed, a piece of straw goes into the crèche. Parents may have to augment some of this to make a decent bed for Baby Jesus. Every week we move the travelers closer to the stable. Finally, the Baby Jesus is placed in the stable on Christmas Eve.

I think Santa Claus has usurped Christmas via the department stores, which may be decorated before Thanksgiving. We decorate in closer tune with the liturgical calendar and have always done so. What does the Grinch have to do with Christmas—or snowmen or reindeer? This custom recreates the journey to Bethlehem, which could not have been easy during a pregnancy.

Guest Blogger Ellen Chmiel is a U.S. Catholic reader and and parishioner at St. James Church in Jamesburg, New Jersey. 

Read more blogs about Advent and Christmas traditions at Submit a guest blog to We may put this together into a holiday theme Meditation Room for the magazine next year. Any reflections selected for publication will win $50!

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.