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crèche (krĕsh, krāsh), representation of the Infant Jesus in the manger, usually surrounded by figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, animals, and the Wise Men; also called Christmas Crib. The crèche has been displayed in churches during the period from Christmas Eve to Jan. 6 since the Middle Ages, especially after St. Francis of Assisi instituted the custom in 1223 at Gréccio, Italy. It is a Christmas tradition in many homes. The term crèche is also applied to a day nursery.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Russian, detskie iasli), in the USSR, a preschool educational establishment in the public health system for children from two months to three years of age.

Crèches provide health care and help ensure the proper physical and mental development of children. In 1913, Russia had 19 crèches, which cared for a total of 550 children. In the USSR the establishment of a broad network of crèches was a prerequisite for the provision of health care for mothers and children. In 1940 there were about 781,000 children in crèches, and in 1977 the number exceeded 3 million, including both children receiving day care and those receiving around-the-clock care.

Four age groups are distinguished in crèches: infant (to nine months), toddler (nine to 14 months), middle (14 to 24 months), and older (two to three years). Each group follows a suitable regimen that includes periodic medical examinations. Entrants undergo a medical examination and an epidemiologic investigation. A créche is directed by a person with a secondary medical education; the children’s health is supervised by a doctor from a pediatric polyclinic.

Since 1959 combined preschool establishments called crèche-kindergartens have been organized in the USSR. Most of the expenses involved in the organization and operation of crèches are covered by the state. In most socialist countries crèches are organized on essentially the same principles as in the USSR. A number of capitalist countries have institutions that serve children under the age of three, but institutions like crèches and crèche-kindergartens have not been extensively developed.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.