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The Nativity Set - The Christmas Story on Display on the Mantle
Breaking News? "Christmas has become a massive retail holiday. We have lost the true meaning of Christmas". That statement was basically made by Saint Francis of Assisi way back in 1223 AD. To combat secular materialism and gift giving he created the Nativity Scene to remind his parishioners of the reason for the season.
Cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, The Arizona Star
Saint Francis's first Nativity was a living Creche - real live people and animals enacting the story of the birth of Jesus. A church in my hometown of Winnipeg presents a living Nativity each Christmas - but they don't just stick to the manger scene; their story starts in the streets of Jerusalem with a market teaming with people and moves to King Herrod making sinister decrees through to the characters we associate more with the Nativity - the Holy Family, Shepherds, Kings and Angels.
I was extremely lucky to see the famous living Pageant in the village of Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany. 1984 was a special 300th anniversary presentation and I happened to be travelling in the area as a teenager with my family. This Passion Play does not actually include the birth of Jesus - I mention it here because I found the representation of the story just so impacting (I'll write about it another time!).
But back to Nativities...eventually statues replaced the humans and animals and Charles III - King of the Two Sicilies (whatever that was!) started collecting sets of such figures. Which brings us right back to my Mom and her collection of Nativity figures. She started her collection shortly after getting married and having honeymooned in Europe. The figures at that time were not inexpensive but in the decades since have gone up exponentially in price where now she buys just one or two pieces when she is in Germany. Her Nativity Scene includes the regular cast of course but also many animals, tools that might have been found in the stable, trees and an Archangel hung above as if floating on his wings.
I only started my own collection when Gingerbread World started importing Nativity Sets from Germany for our customers. I love the modern curves of my Björn Köhler set and the natural colours of the wood. And I love the way the wooden arches bring definition to the scene. But now we are importing a brand new design by Günter Reichel - another wood art studio in Germany - and I am coveting it. It's really quite different - more industrial lines and natural wood - gorgeous.
My kids are teenagers now but one year when they were small we memorized Luke 2 - the chapter of the Bible that tells of the birth of Jesus. Having the Nativity figures to look at and handle made the ancient verses much more significant for the kids. In another of my Blog articles - Christmas in 15 Seconds or Less - I explore ideas for taking the stress of getting the Big Message of the Season out to your kids by giving yourself permission to consider themes in 15 seconds or less. Taking just a few moments to handle even one Nativity figure at a time and to talk with your child about who it represents and its significance in the Story can be impactful to a child. The wise Berenstain Bears knew this!
Although it's only September I am already plotting where my Nativity will go this year. We've just finished up major renovations in our home and no longer have a mantle over our fireplace but we do have some beautiful walnut shelves just to the left of the fireplace with the exposed tyndall stone brick behind them that will show off my growing collection beautifully!
Best of the Season to you and enjoy your own Nativity Set or start your collection this year with one of the handcrafted Sets in our shop.
Owner @ Gingerbread World