For many decades, up until 1990, a life-sized crèche was a prominent feature of Sonoma’s Christmas decorations. It was placed in front of City Hall at the front-most part of the Plaza horseshoe facing the intersection of Broadway and Napa Street.
The Sonoma Valley Ministerial Association was responsible for the Christmas manger scene, and every December, when they set it up, it was also a signal to the community that the holiday season had begun.
While many locals and visitors would stroll through the Plaza to view it, there were numerous occasions when they would notice one or more of the pieces missing. Often it was the baby Jesus, but the wise men also went missing occasionally.
I was the police beat reporter in those years, and often ran reports of the missing characters along with a city plea for the return of the baby and/or wise men.
Inevitably, a few days later, the baby Jesus would miraculously reappear in the manger. The missing wise men were usually found on a bench in front of Steiner’s Bar, at The Swiss Hotel or some other drinking establishment on the Plaza.