Nativity Set Traditions
by Pam R Selthun
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Take a close look at your Nativity set. Maybe you have more than one.
When I was growing up, my mom had at least three sets I can remember: one made of breakable, bisque porcelain that she only let us touch when she could see us; one which sat under the Christmas tree and had a stable and animals made of wood and plastic, and a third made of olive wood, which she and my dad bought when they visited the Holy Land. Every year, she added the baby Jesus to each scene on Christmas Day. It was a sign to us that Jesus had been born and Christmas was here!
The greatest story ever told has been shared throughout history by Christians around the world, and the nativity scenes we display are one way of telling the story. They also become part of our own Christmas traditions.
Watch this video, created and shared by United Methodist TV, and learn more about how the variations in figures and styles in crèches have cultural and biblical meanings:
Some people wait a week to add the wise men to their display to mark the time it would have taken for the Magi to travel to visit the Baby Jesus. Others, like me, have them edge closer to the stable each week during Advent.
Like my mother, I have three Nativity sets on display in my home. One I bought at the Serendipities gift shop at PVUMC. It has androgynous figures, which makes it difficult to distinguish between Mary and Joseph and the shepherds; all are humble, simply dressed folk. One, who we have identified as Mary, is holding the baby Jesus, so the baby is always on display during Advent, with his mother. This set includes a stable and three kings, each with different skin colors, crowns, robes and a camel to share. I added a llama from Peru to join the camel and we added some sheep as well to keep the donkey company. This was the set I bought for my children.
A second set I bought when we were south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. I haggled with the seller and bought it for $20 about 25 years ago. It’s terra cotta, and painted. The angels wings have been broken off and been glued back on a few times, but it’s still precious to me.
The final set was one that my daughter, Elena, painted. It’s plastic, but it’s ours. One of a kind!
What does your favorite Nativity set look like? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And if you don’t have a set, stop by Serendipities to shop for one. Merry Christmas!