It was also Daehler Hayes who also started Old First’s tradition of a live crèche. For a while or perhaps initially, the animals came from the New Jersey farmer who supplied the steamship rounds of beef roasted for the hot roast beef sandwiches sold at the church’s monthly food festivals. It was Daehler again who persuaded Shriners in Delaware to loan Old First their camel, Sheik, for the crèche. Sheik routinely knocked down the mannequins and tried to eat anything he could get close to—including Mary’s clothing. In another crèche incident, John Painter, a transplanted Pennsylvania Dutchman and longtime member of Old First, was working in the church one weekday when he noticed a cow walking down Race St. He thought nothing of it until the realization hit–“That’s our cow!” While looking at the crèche photos, look at the one with a pile of Belgian blocks behind a cow. You can see that the church yard was no real yard then and that the restoration was very much an on-going project.
On the left side of the display notice pictures from Markusgemeinde in Bielefeld. Members of Markusgemeinde who visited us in the 90’s liked the idea of a live animal crèche so much that they decided to have one of their own. The triangular stable is pure German and the only animals Markusgemeinde has are sheep, but their antecedent crèche is Old First’s. Also shown are photos of their hand-carved nativity set.
Lastly, the photo at the top left of the display shows the church school stage in 1927–the year the congregation celebrated its first Christmas at 50th & Locust. The church school stage was the focus of the White Gift celebration and plays based on the Christmas story were an important part of White Gift Sunday. Copies of several of these plays are in the archives. Through the 70’s, the White Gift custom was for people to bring money in white envelopes. In later years the gifts also included socks and underwear wrapped in white paper. The money collected went to retired pastors in financial need; the clothing went to the homeless.