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Nativity Scene Committee Seeks Funds to Keep Santa Monica Holiday Tradition Alive

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By Jorge Casuso

January 21, 2018 -- When the Nativity scenes that have been a tradition in Santa Monica since 1953 came down earlier this month, the wooden booths that housed them were too rotted to keep.

The wood, which had been used since the booths were rebuilt in 1987, was tossed, and new booths will be needed to accommodate the life-size displays depicting the birth of Christ.

"The wooden framing was thirty years old," said Zachary M. Scribner, who chairs the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee. "The wood where the bolts go was split, and the bolts won't hold anymore.

"We had to assemble some of the booths with nails."

When the booths were disassembled January 6, they could no longer be salvaged, Scribner said.

The beleaguered nativity scenes -- which found their third home at the Calvary Baptist Church this past holiday season -- have dwindled from the traditional 13 scenes, Scribner said. Last year there were 12 scenes, this year, 11.

Since there was no room for the display depicting the Holy Family seeking lodging at the inn, he said, the scene was combined with one depicting the family's journey on the road.

The committee has been struggling to keep the tradition alive since atheist activists forced the removal of the displays from their original home in Palisades Park in 2011 ("Santa Monica Nativity Display Nudged Out by Atheists," December 9, 2011).

In 2013, the committee found a temporary home at Mount Olive Lutheran Church and this year at Calvary, a predominantly black Baptist church on the corner of 20th and Broadway.

The committee's long-term plan, which has been blocked in court, has always been to return to the park along the coast.

"That's still our dream," Scribner said.

For now, the committee is busy sending letters seeking donations to build new booths, Scribner said. But the project is costly.

"The dream" is to raise $24,000 to construct all 12 booths in metal, he said. If the fundraising effort falls short, the committee can build wooden booths for half that price.

The committee has raised about $9,000 with help from the local churches that sponsor the displays, Scribner said.

"If we can't get the money, we will probably build what we can and use the scenes the story can't live without," he said.

The new booths should add luster to Santa Monica's unique holiday tradition, Scribner said.

"Some churches have a nativity scene in front of their churches, but nothing like this," he said. "This is life size.

"The dream is that it would be a draw for all LA."


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