Wednesday, November 19th, 2003 • 2 Comments on Away in a manger… baby Jesus got eaten by a lion
Speaking of Christmas, and what else would we be speaking about at this time of the year?, why is it so damn hard to find a nativity scene that’s right? I mean, c’mon people, we’re talking tradition here. The old-fashioned, Christian based tradition of the nativity. Why is that so complicated??
What am I talking about? I’m talking about a nativity scene that includes all the principles and isn’t made out of plastic, fabric or cork. I’m talking about Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus with faces (not faceless art deco blown glass in pastel colors). I’m talking about the three wise men (
camels) and Gloria, the angel. I’m talking about a stable that looks like a stable and not a shoebox, a trailer or a Barbie Dream House. I’m talking about animals that belong in a nativity: cows, oxen, sheep and donkeys. Maybe a cat, but certainly not dogs, and definitely not a lion (I kid you not, I’ve seen a nativity with a lion). It would be preferable if the baby Jesus were removable from the manger for those who wish to observe the tradition of leaving the baby Jesus out of the nativity until Christmas day (I personally don’t care, but it’s a nice touch). It would be good if Gloria hung from the front of the stable and even better if there were a lightbulb behind her to cast a ethereal glow.
The Fontanini family comes closest to getting right, but then they’ve been doing it for over a hundred years. They’re expensive, but it’s amazing what I’m willing to pay to have a baby Jesus who looks like a baby and not a Weeble.
I had the right kind of nativity when I was a kid, which is why I’m so picky. One of my favorite memories is setting up the nativity each year and hanging Gloria just so in front of the lightbulb. The stable had a straw-like roof, the wise men were appropriately ethnic (never mind that Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were all peculiarly white) and everyone had a happy, reverential expression. I was slightly disappointed there wasn’t a little drummer boy, not realizing the song was written in 1958 (I just looked that up) and had nothing to do with the original nativity.
Keep your burnished metal nativities, your burlap doll nativities, your papier mache nativities. Give me an old-fashioned nativity scene and leave the lions, tigers and bears to Sigfried and Roy.