Menorahs and crèches have been part of long-standing traditions in celebration of Hanukkah and Christmas. Over the past 2,200 years, both symbols have been reinvented by artists and artisans, adapting to various cultures and periods of time. Through the generosity of local collectors and the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, this exhibit provides a unique perspective into how these significant holiday traditions have been interpreted throughout time by cultures around the world.
Menorahs: A Celebration of Light
While menorahs have existed for centuries in many forms, the nine-branch menorah we know today was first created in celebration of a miracle. During the second century B.C., Emperor Antiochus sought to oppress the people of Israel and replace their customs with his own Hellenistic heritage. To defend their traditions and way of life, a small group of Jews fought and defeated Antiochus’ army. After they reclaimed their temple, the Jews lit the menorah.
Only one small vessel of oil survived the battle – enough to light the lamp for one night. When the single vessel of oil burned for eight days, a miracle was proclaimed and the holiday Hanukkah was established in celebration. Over the past two thousand years, the nine-branch menorah has grown to be a symbol of light.
Nativities: Art and Faith of the Crèche
In 1223 A.D., St. Francis of Assisi assembled the first recorded nativity display in a cave with live actors and animals. St. Francs’ concept of a nativity display spread to villages across Italy and was often used to attract villages to hear sermons about the story of Jesus’ birth.
Over time, the live displays were supplemented with the creation and use of inanimate nativity scenes, Crèches. While different cultures have adapted the scene in countless ways, strong tradition continues to dictate the nearly universal arrangement of the static figures – Jesus, Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and other figures arranged in order of importance emanating from the center.
The Trout Museum of Art
Fox Cities Building for the Arts
111 W. College Avenue
Appleton, WI 54911
HOURS OF OPERATION
Admission varies by Exhibit.