It is my pleasure to welcome the Virtual Advent to my blog today. I love the Christmas season for the tree lights, the music, the food, and the general feelings of good will. I also am a Christian, so I love the community-wide celebration of the birth of my Savior, even though I know a good number of people view it as a secular holiday. (I’m okay with that too.) At any rate, I am glad I can have a post today about a special part of my Christmas.
Last year, although I didn’t know about the advent blogosphere tour, I wrote a post about favorite Christmas music. I loved the non-books seasonal break. This year, I thought I’d talk about my nativity scene collection.
I don’t know where I got this, but it was my first and only nativity scene when I was in high school. It was mine, in my room. I took it to college and it sat in a corner of my dorm room. Now, when I unpack it with my Christmas decorations, it reminds me of the joy of simplicity: while it’s cheap, it’s a Christmas reminder of the humility of Christ’s stable. When I take it out each year, I remember that a 14-month-old should never be left within reach of anything even remotely sentimental (he threw this down the stairs within 3 minutes). It is breakable. Surprise! Thank goodness for glue.
Olive Wood from Jerusalem
I had the marvelous and blessed opportunity to go Jerusalem at the end of my first year at college (the year 2000). The only thing I really really wanted for myself as a “souvenir” was an olive wood nativity scene. When I bought it, I was assured it was hand carved; the more I look at it, each year, the more I suspect it’s more of the generic variety. There are flaws in it and in some respects it’s rather cheaply made. (I also didn’t know much about bargaining and so forth, so I can’t say it was cheap to buy). I was young and naive. If I had to choose again, I’d probably select a different, more “polished” model.
But those facts are irrelevant when I unpack this each year. I am reminded of my time in Jerusalem and the testimony I developed of Jesus Christ while I was there. And every Christmas as I unpack this nativity set, I remember what Christmas truly means.
This olive wood set was the only nativity set and only Christmas decoration I took with me to Australia for the 15 months I lived there, so it was our main means of celebration that year. I was glad to have something Christmas-y.
In 2002, I spent a summer in Bolivia, where I got to help people. (That was the general idea, but in retrospect, I think I got in a fair amount of play time in there given the memories I have of the other volunteers and other single youths I met.)
At any rate, in this nativity set, the characters are playing native Bolivian instruments and wearing traditional Bolivian clothing, reminiscent of the high country around La Paz. I wish it were larger: I’ve lost a piece, I think, and they break very easily. (Thank goodness for superglue.) Nevertheless, I like the reminder of my time in Bolivia.
Porcelain Creche from Grandma
A few years ago (2004?), my grandmother sent me, and each grandchild (of which there are many), a beautiful porcelain creche for Christmas. I am reminded of my grandmother and grandfather each year I take it out. It is gentle and beautiful, as is my grandmother. And it is majestic in grandeur, as I like to recall my grandfather was, who has passed away.
This is one of those nativity sets that I imagine will break some day, thanks to some little child. Nonetheless, I do my best to keep it safe by keeping it in the no-kids-allowed living room underneath the Christmas tree, the traditional place for keeping presents. Since this was a present to me, under the tree seems an appropriate place for it still. But also, the tree skirt reminds me of a soft blanket for a babe in a manger, a place of rest and quiet. And the tree branches protect it, much as a real tree would protect small animals from the elements.
Creche from Cinque Terra
In 2005, just months before I met the man who would become husband, I had the chance to visit Paris and parts of Italy with my friend. Although I found a beautiful but tiny glass creche in Paris that I loved (I still think of it!), I passed on it given the steep price tag and my limited spending money. Instead, I found this homemade ceramic hanging creche in one of the small towns of Cinque Terra on the Italian Riviera. I loved the setting there. It was so colorful and earthy: I loved how the cities were built into the mountains. This creche reminds me of that setting. I’d love to return to Italy some day with my husband.
My Mother-in-Law Nativity
My mother-in-law sent me and my husband a nativity for our first married Christmas (2006). The figures are large and attention getting, and all of them remind me of angels singing “Joy to the World.” It’s my largest nativity set. When I unpack it at Christmas-time, I am reminded of my mother-in-law and the joy of family gatherings at this time of year.
In 2007, I was living in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, approximately 16,000 miles from our nearest family, with a very newborn baby. We were going out of town for the holiday itself. But I had told my friend Michelle about my nativity collection that was in storage far away. So she brought me a little “Australian” nativity to join it. There’s nothing distinctly Australian about this little ornament-sized nativity, but it reminds me of my friend, our wonderful time Down Under, and the fact that even when I am far from family and “traditions,” friends can be there for us to help us feel loved.
Little People Nativity
In 2008, my mother-in-law gave us another nativity scene, this one a Little People set for my then one-year-0ld to play with. That first year, Raisin tried to eat the baby Jesus, last year he put the wise man on a train (no slow camels for my train-obsessed son!), and this year he enjoys telling me the Christmas story with the figures. (Although it’s hard to see each piece in the set in the picture, that is how my son insisted it be set up. As it is his, I obliged.)
This year, I’ve acquired two more! The first I got was this inexpensive, home glued scene that I got from a white elephant exchange. I gave it to my son. Maybe it can be “his” just like my first was “mine.” This reminds me of silly holiday parties…
Stocking Holders Set
I also bought myself another nativity scene this year. I’ve been looking for just the right stocking holders (not that we have stockings yet, but first things first) and I saw this one at Kohls this year. It’s perfect, since I can count it in my creche collection as well as use it for stockings. I like how it ties the religious tradition (Christmas is Christ’s birth) with the secular tradition (stockings for Santa), since I like both traditions.
I should note, however, that Raisin has informed me that Santa cannot come to our house this year. He thinks Santa is grumpy, and he asked me to write Santa a letter saying he couldn’t come. We did. Sigh. I should enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose.
My nativity scenes aren’t the most elegant, but I’m looking forward to always adding to my collection as the years pass. I used to try to say which was a favorite, but by now they all found a place in my heart and home.
Do you have any Creches to display during the holiday season? Which of these is your favorite?