TalkCatholic Tradition

Join LibraryThing to post.


Edited: Jan 6, 2019, 10:43am

In honor of the day of Epiphany, I thought I'd begin this thread.

Presepi is the plural form of presepe, literally "in front of the crib." Italian families, in particular, have a rich heritage of constructing elaborate Nativity scenes.

My family was blessed with a large set from my uncle, a priest, who shipped it from Italy. It took up the entire buffet top, and putting it up every Christmas Eve was very special. Mom baked a birthday cake and we sang Happy Birthday to the infant Jesus.

That set stayed in the house and my brother now has custody.

In my own house, I found a beautiful resin set, with gorgeous jewel-colored clothings. In addition, my children and I added figures from all sorts of origins. For instance, we found Peruvian children and a llama at a crafts booth at the multicultural festival. K Mart sold pieces that rivaled Fontanini, but were much more affordable. There we acquired a tent for the three wise men to use in their travels across our own buffet surface. People and animals of the world all seemed to gather in various ways. A pizza from the dollhouse made it's way into the stable as sustenance for the Holy Family.

When grandson came along, he helped me do the set up, and, let me tell you, the camels got pretty rowdy!

My older daughter now has custody, and her children delight in the task. Every year we discuss adding running water or a suspended footbridge, but space is always an issue.

I have a small collection of children's books that I'll share with you in later posts.

Here is an article of information:

This year, I discovered Joseph Sciorra, a New York scholar on Italian heritage. He builds new and challenging presepi each year in his kitchen. Recently one featured Donald Trump and his wall.

Here is one he did in 2008:

and the NYT article about it.

Jan 6, 2019, 11:13am

Here's another controversial presepe

the article explains:

This Christmas some objected to a presepe on view in the little town of Acquaviva delle Fonti near Bari in the South of Italy. Built with the approval and encouragement of the city fathers, it represents, first, a family of migrants whose boat has sunk as they crossed the Mediterranean Sea and, secondly, the war we must all undertake against plastic.

Jan 6, 2019, 11:17am

>2 2wonderY:

Wonder why it is controversial? Jesus and his family were refugees soon after his birth, when Joseph had to take them to Egypt to escape Herod's genocidal tendencies.

Jan 6, 2019, 11:34am

Exactly so. But some people resist the true message and cling to the "nice" version they know from childhood.

Here is a video of Sciorra from last year, explaining his Trumpian landscape:

I find it amusing that the Daily Caller include that he is "a Catholic apostate and atheist"

Jan 6, 2019, 11:54am

I don't think it is merely a matter of wanting only the "nice" version. I believe that many people do not want to see the relevance to our time, as to do so would be a challenge to, and require re-thinking, anti-immigrant attitudes.

I find it amusing that the Daily Caller include that he is "a Catholic apostate and atheist"

In fairness, that is also how he was described in the article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to which they linked: And he describes himself as "raised Catholic but . . . now an atheist":

Joseph Sciorra's author page on LT. He sounds like a pretty interesting guy.

Jan 6, 2019, 12:20pm

>5 lilithcat: Yes, I see that in my own parish. Last year when Matthew 25 was the reading, Fr. Steve was chided for his "political homily." Really?!

I was interested enough to buy Scorria's Built with Faith, hoping for more images of his own work. Nope. It was fuzzy b&w photos of more traditional grottos.

And, hey, he's Italian. He's still Catholic, no matter what he thinks he believes.

Jan 6, 2019, 12:32pm

Last year, St. Susanna parish in Massachusetts, added a list of mass shootings

Father Stephen Josoma said that he hopes the reminder of those killed in mass shooting paired with a display of Jesus will persuade people to call for gun control.

Edited: Feb 5, 2019, 12:08pm

Clearing shelves today, I found where I had stuffed the bulk of my collection of nativity picture books. It's hard to decide on a favorite, as they are all pretty wonderful.

The most vintage is The Christ Child by Maude and Miska Petersham.

Here is an inside page:

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 7:46am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 7, 2019, 7:46am

>9 PossMan:. That’s lovely. Thanks for sharing it.

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 10:07am

Haven't heard the word "presepi" before now but my wife and I collected a good number of nativity sets some almost being more like a farmyard with all the sheep, cows, donkeys. We used to display them all but some have been given away to children and others stay in their boxes. But one we get out every Christmas is a very basic and rather crude papier-mache from Recife in NE Brazil

PS: This is my second post of this but I accidently deleted the first when I was trying to work out how to insert the picture and not just a link - something I've forgotten.

Jan 7, 2019, 10:40am

Member MarthaJeanne gave me permission to share her new nativity set. She thinks it was made in Nepal.

Poss, the code is img src= and the link in quotation marks between carrot brackets.

Jan 7, 2019, 10:47am

In Catholic elementary school, the kids made white ceramic Nativity sets. A classmate was out being treated for leukemia, so the kids each made an extra sheep for him. He survived, thank goodness, but I remember his family's Nativity display as having more/as many sheep, I think, than the original event! (The mom loved those sheep.)

Edited: Feb 5, 2019, 12:10pm

Julie Vivas's illustrations in The Nativity are so appealing because they depict a simplicity, an earthiness and a common humanity.

There are several YouTube readings where you can visit the entire book.

The angel wears work boots and rests exhausted in a tree after his night of proclamation. Joseph gets to cuddle the baby while Mary rests. And this is the cutest Baby Jesus:

Jan 7, 2019, 10:58am

>13 margd: Okay, that makes me tear up!

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 12:21pm

Mercer Mayer decided to celebrate his first grandchild's birth with The Little Drummer Mouse.

In the first half of the book there are only rumors of a king, and the forest animals are disappointed when the royal family they expected to travel through their territory seem to not show.

But our hero determines to look a bit further than their expectations.

I love the brambly hedge-like detail in the illustrations. When Drummer Mouse enters the human sphere, Mercer maintains the mouse point of view.

When my grands were younger, they often chose this version for me to read on Christmas Eve.

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 12:32pm

>16 2wonderY: Sounds like a kid perspective! On homeland tours, Thai adoptees met the Crown Princess. She's middle-aged, university professor--a very accomplished, caring woman--but kids, expecting a Disney princess, are inevitably disappointed. Britain's Prince Harry must be aware of kids' expectations, saying he tries not to disappoint. :)

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 1:11pm

>17 margd: That's one of the interesting aspects of Mercer's rendition. On the page where the animals are expressing their disappointment, there is a poor couple travelling in the background.

Isn't that part of the entire narrative? The Jews were expecting someone else?

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 1:54pm

Trying to be productive at home while furloughed, I'm sorting paper and books, with the intention of disposing some. So clearing part of a shelf on the religion bookshelf, I came across Mary: Images of the Virgin in Art. It's quite a collection. Almost all are disappointing to me aesthetically. All but a handful are northern European faces; most are beautiful, a few are creepy.

At one point, I went looking for Pinterest photos of what the Holy Family might really have looked like, and found only a few:

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 2:10pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 2:32pm

>12 2wonderY:: Poss, the code is img src= and the link in quotation marks between carrot brackets.
Thanks for that — I've made a note and hope to try it out soonish.

Edited: Jan 7, 2019, 4:38pm

This may be the first Nativity book I had owned. I think a boyfriend gave it to me in college. I'm ready to pass it on, if anyone is interested.

Boyd Hanna created wood engravings for The Peter Pauper Press, so it's good quality, but too small in format for me to appreciate with my old eyes.

The Story of the Nativity in Wood Engravings

Here's my favorite page (at more than 200% of the original):

Jan 7, 2019, 5:33pm

Before I tuck it away for another year, I'll show you the cover of The Last Straw, illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen.

As I mentioned lately in another thread, it’s about a proud old camel named Hoshmakaka, who brags about his strength, egged on by the younger camels and so he ends up carrying all the gifts, not just the three we know about.

Jan 7, 2019, 10:44pm

>22 2wonderY:

What an absolutely stunning illustration!

So here's a photo I took in Luxor, over 30 years ago. It rather reminds me of Merson's "Rest on the Flight into Egypt":

Jan 8, 2019, 7:16am

>24 lilithcat:. Oh Wow! Your photo is stunning and I just went to look at the Merson painting. That is awesome.

Jan 8, 2019, 9:34am

Charles Tazewell published The Small One: A Story for Those Who Like Christmas and Small Donkeys in 1947. Mine appears to be a first edition.

The illustrations, by Franklin Whitman, are not superior, but the story is very nice. It starts in Mexico where Pedro is berating his donkey for laziness. The Padre tells him that donkeys are not lazy, it is pride that makes them aloof. He tells Pedro about another boy and his donkey named Small One.

The story is leisurely and lovingly told. The language is rich.

Jan 8, 2019, 3:13pm

William Barclay helped to translate Franco Zeffirelli's film starring Olivia Hussey and Robert Powell into a luscious visual book, Jesus of Nazareth.

The first 59 pages present the Nativity story. Photos are by Paul Ronald.

Yorgo Voyagis, as Joseph, is striking:

Edited: Jan 8, 2019, 4:57pm

There are several books that collect different Nativity sets.

James L. Govan appears to have been an enthusiastic collector, along with his wife.

They helped found the Friends of the Crèche:

His book is Art of the Crèche: Nativities from Around the World

It is, by far, the most comprehensive collection in book form. His explanations for those from other cultures is enlightening.

Researching Govan, I chanced upon this enthusiast's site where downloadable vintage paper nativities can be had:

Jan 9, 2019, 9:50am

Govan's book makes it clear that Nativity art has also been historically popular in the Germanic region.

Nina Gockerell wrote a lovely small book published by Taschen. As this publisher does, it is presented in three languages. So the notes are brief, but interesting. But the photos, by Walter Haberland, are the main course.

Krippen is the German plural of ‘krippe,’ meaning crib or manger.

I love this book! It offers classic Nativities from the German/Alpine area and Sicily/Naples. All are classic, a few are paper.

It alternates panoramas with close-ups.

Two covers will give you an idea of the contents:

Jan 9, 2019, 10:56am

In 1964, The Metropolitan Museum of Art was given 140 Neapolitan pieces, ranging from 12 to 15 inches, and ever since have been displayed on a huge Christmas tree.

Lee Boltin was the museum photographer who gave us close-ups.

The Nativity: the Christmas crèche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art uses the bulk of the book to recount the Christmas story from the King James bible. The last section gives a history of the presepi phenomenon and this collection in particular.

Edited: Jan 10, 2019, 4:01pm

I was fortunate to be working at Borders the year The Nativity Story film came out, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, as I fell in love with it and the auxiliary books that use stills.

The film itself is wonderfully rich in visuals, story and symbolism and successfully portrays these principals as very human. Unlike other biblical films, there is even humor.

Huh. I can't touchstone others with the same title in the same post, so I will continue in another post.

One of the sweet aside stories of the movie was the friendship of the three wise men

Edited: Jan 12, 2019, 9:24am

The Nativity Story gift book features photography by Jamie Trueblood and bible verses from both Old and New Testaments.

The thinner book, The Nativity Story: Children's Movie Storybook, again features Trueblood's photos, but tells a narrative written by Sadie Chesterfield.

Edited: Feb 5, 2019, 12:31pm

My nativity set is stored at daughter's house, so I tried to google it and found that it was probably designed by an Italian named Moranduzzo. But when I search that name for information about him or the original company, I can't get past the pages and pages of ads.

We bought it at Sears in the 1990s. The infant and the angel pieces seem to have not varied in all that time. The other pieces appear to have variations in details and number.

This is the best image I can find of our basic set:

though we don't have the camels.

The colors and the fact that they are resin attracted me. They are extremely durable, especially as handled by children. Also, they lack that green base that other figures typically have, and stand on their own.

Someone gifted me at one time with a carved wood and painted set of three wise women, each from a different eastern culture. Though the three wise men show up on January 6th, these women show up on time, helped clean the stable, assisted with the delivery, and brought a casserole. I'm sorry to not have a picture of them.

Looking at all to Moranduzzo figures, my lust for acquisition has been re-awakened. I'd especially love to have a reclining Mary:

Jan 12, 2019, 9:53am

In the tradition of Dorothy P. Lathrop's Animals of the Bible (which itself has two nativity pages), Michael McCurdy illustrated The Beasts of Bethlehem.

I can't find a decent image of the cover, and nothing of the interior contents. It blurs as I enlarge it.

McCurdy's main technique was wood engravings, but these are tinted scratchboard.

They accompany minimalist poems by X. J. Kennedy. I hadn't paid any attention to those previously, but there are some interesting lines. They are purportedly the thoughts of each beast.

The sheep:
"I bleat my sheepish praise,
But no one hears.
Who cares
What sheep think of the Lamb of God?"

There are some unexpected animals, like a hummingbird, and dialogue between a few - like cat and mouse, bat and mosquito.

The mosquito:
"Who but a blind bat swaddled in his wings
Could dream that I might bite the King of Kings?"

Even the worm is represented:
"A human babe is born divine?
Well, what concern is that of mine?"

I find I have an extra copy. Anyone want it?

Jan 12, 2019, 11:47am

Wow! Your collection could be focus of an exhibit!

Jan 12, 2019, 12:04pm

I have shared them at various gatherings at church.

One of the most blessed activities I've ever done was to restore the large plaster pieces of the parish display. I'm crafty, but I'd never tackled anything like it.

I'd helped to set it up while we decorated the rest of the church; and they were pretty battered from their decades of handling. Many of the pieces had lost noses and Baby Jesus had lost a hand. The donkey had lost part of his buttock.

I took over one of the kitchens in our parish activity center and spent several months re-building with plaster-of-paris and then matching paint. I was amazed at the unique and subtle colors of each piece. My hands and eyes seemed to be the tools of the Spirit, as I mixed colors and applied them.

I wish I had taken before and after photos.

Then we invested in Rubbermaid tubs and bubble wrap, discarding the tattered old cardboard boxes and newspapers that had been in use from the beginning.

Jan 12, 2019, 1:20pm

There are just a few more to share.

As you've probably noticed, color intensity is important to me.

Jane Ray is a master. Her colors and patterns feed the eye. And her people are Mediterranean!

Her book is titled The Story of Christmas, also sometimes Nativity.

(Sorry, the image is slightly blurry.)

Do you want some inside pages?

Jan 12, 2019, 2:57pm

Ah, nice! Look Persian almost?

When he was a kid, I remember my son's disappointment Christmas morning.
He pushed to the front of a crowd to see the baby I told him would be in the manger.
"It's a DOLL!" he cried in disappointment. :)

Jan 12, 2019, 5:51pm

>38 margd: I feel for him!

Edited: Jan 13, 2019, 11:00am

Green Tiger Press, Blue Lantern Studios, and then Laughing Elephant. Sandra and Harold Darling have been collecting old illustrations for half a century and re-introducing them as greeting cards, journals and gift books. I'm amazed there are so few copies of their best books on LT. Once I realized how to find them second-hand, I bought them by the half dozen. (Goodwill of Seattle usually has a good collection of them.)

Baby Jesus has more than three dozen historical images, taken from fine art and from children's illustrations.

The Nativity story is outlined with only a sentence or two on a page. The art is lovingly chosen and indexed.

Inside, my favorites ~ Bessie Pease Gutman:

W. Lee Hankey:

Obviously, I love reciprocal gazing into a baby's eyes. (I was second oldest of 11, and we always had babies around.)

Edited: Feb 5, 2019, 12:35pm

I've saved the best for last. (At least for now.)

Jan Pieńkowski came to my attention with his marvelously clever and hilarious pop-up books. You'd think one genius talent would be enough. But then I saw his silhouette work in Easter and Christmas. (And assorted fairy tales, as well.) OH! MY!

His grace and delicacy and shading and detail ... they rival that of Lotte Reiniger.

inside glimpses:

well, I can't find my favorite - the angel announcing to the shepherds - so we'll have to settle for this one

Edited: Jan 13, 2019, 11:44am

Oh. Well....

That didn't end things. As I was looking for those last images, I discovered a new to me illustrator.

Brian Wildsmith's angels are worth a long look ~

Feb 5, 2019, 11:29am

From the public library, I've been enjoying The Christmas Crèche: Treasure of Faith, Art, and Theater

It was published in 1997, and is more scholarly than any others. I learned a lot of details. This book claims 'presepi' means stable, so I looked up the word 'crib.' Crib refers directly to the manger:

Old English cribbe "manger, fodder bin in cowsheds and fields," from a West Germanic root (cf. Old Saxon kribbia "manger;" Old Frisian and Middle Dutch kribbe ; Old High German krippa , German Krippe "crib, manger") probably related to German krebe "basket."

Powell takes us all the way back to Nativity stories in the early Church, through the paintings and then to religious pageantry and famous crèche sets. The mid-section of the book focuses on Naples, Sicily. Munich, etc., with lots of artists names and collections. The last section expands to the rest of the world and modern work. I've read most of the text; now I'll go back and savor the photos.

May 16, 2019, 5:56am

By Andy Warhol? :D

Oct 29, 2019, 8:09am

I've not listed Gennady Spirin here before, but I have him in my library, perhaps on a wishlist. I borrowed We Three Kings from the library to have a look-see.

Spirin's art reflects his Russian heritage. His images are ornate and posed, like religious icons.

The text is the Christmas carol. Sadly, the 5 page spreads with the refrain are identical to each other. These kings don't start their journeys together, which allows for three different magnificent processions. I'm not so much impressed by the gold and the grandeur. It's the animals that impress me. That elephant in particular is wonderful.

Dec 5, 2019, 1:03am

Pope asks Catholics to set up, be enchanted by a Nativity scene (National Catholic Reporter)

A Nativity scene is a simple reminder of something astonishing: God became human to reveal the greatness of his love "by smiling and opening his arms to all," Pope Francis said in a letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs...

Dec 8, 2019, 7:59am

Daughter sent me this image today:

She saw it on FaceBook, identified as at Claremont Methodist Church in California.

Not finding it on newsfeed yet, but this is what that church presented in 2014:

Dec 8, 2019, 8:14am


Church member, John Zachary, has designed these scenes since 2007 for the church.

from 2015:

Dec 8, 2019, 8:28am

Funny, the ways that Google knows where you're driving.

This installation was put up in 2017 in Castenaso, Italy, and displeased the local bishop:

Dec 9, 2019, 11:41pm

>48 2wonderY:

I think this story is about the image you posted.

California nativity scene displaying Jesus in a cage causes stir (Guardian)

Claremont United Methodist church installation shows Jesus, Mary and Joseph as caged immigrant family

Dec 13, 2019, 11:37pm

Holy cow, donkey, and camel: trio found roaming Kansas booked for Nativity scene (Guardian)

A camel, cow and donkey that were found roaming together along a Kansas road have been booked to appear in a Christmas Nativity scene...

Dec 14, 2019, 3:36am

The Holy Family politically manipulated.

Edited: Dec 14, 2019, 4:15am

>53 LesMiserables:

Have you forgotten that the Holy Family were refugees?

Dec 14, 2019, 4:17am

>53 LesMiserables:

Celebrate Christmas by Encountering “abandoned, marginalized, forgotten”: Ghanaian Prelate (ACI Africa)

the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, John Bonaventure Kwofie used the opportunity of the Advent Season to invite Christians... to be mindful of the needy in society. “Let’s celebrate this Christmas by thinking of what can be done to ease the situation of the abandoned, the marginalized, the forgotten, the sick, the aged, the needy... Let us celebrate Christmas taking a positive stand in support of the human person, in order to bring to an end whatever diminishes the dignity of the human person. As we look forward to Christmas, I encourage all to celebrate in moderation, let us remember to share our joy with the poor and less privileged”...

Dec 15, 2019, 3:34am


No they were not.

Edited: Dec 15, 2019, 3:55am

>56 LesMiserables:

Yes they were. See Matthew 2:13–21.

13 After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.'

14 So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt,

15 where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt.

16 Herod was furious on realising that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men.

17 Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.

19 After Herod's death, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt

20 and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.'

21 So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel.

Dec 15, 2019, 6:29am


No they were not.

What you mean by refugee and your not so eloquent surreptitiously arranged method of portraying this, is the 21st century economic migrant, abusing the goodwill of foreigners and the politicking of unscrupulous elected officials.

No they were not like this at all. Don't ever again please use the Holy Family as some political weapon to warrant mass economic illegal immigration.

Edited: Dec 15, 2019, 6:53am

>58 LesMiserables:

There are various legal and technical definitions of "refugee", and these are what I mean by the term. Having to flee to another country because there is a threat that a family member will be murdered by the government fits into most of them. The Holy Family were refugees, fleeing to a neighbouring country because Joseph had a well-founded belief that his son would be murdered by the king.

Please don't try to downplay the Holy Family's real tribulations in order to advance your own political prejudices.

PS: The Holy Father has referred to the Holy Family as "refugees".

Pope Francis compares Holy Family to modern-day refugees (Tablet) (last Christmas)

Just like many migrants and refuges today, he added, the Holy Family experienced "the anguish of persecution" when fleeing to Egypt. "Little Jesus reminds us that half of today's refugees in the world are children, blameless victims of human injustice," the pope said...

Pope says saga of Holy Family echoes in today’s migrants, refugees (Crux) (Christmas 2017)

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are today 65.6 million people who’ve been forcibly driven from their homes, including 22.5 million refugees and 10 million stateless persons. According to the same data, 20 people somewhere in the world are forcibly displaced every minute of every day.

One could say that Pope Francis had all those people in mind on Christmas Eve, as he preached a homily extolling the Holy Family as an exemplar for today’s burgeoning numbers of people who find themselves unwillingly on the move.

“We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day,” Francis said, describing the Gospel story of Jesus and Mary being forced to set out for Bethlehem, where Mary would eventually give birth to the baby Jesus.

“We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” the pope said. “In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.”

The pontiff’s reference was to King Herod, who, according to the New Testament narrative, saw the Christ child as a threat to his power and ordered every first-born child slain...

Dec 15, 2019, 7:29am

The Holy Father said...
Oh pleeeeeeease!

This Pope has been the worst Pope in history.

One who issues in a papal endorsement of adultery, shall have a sore time of it when he meets his Maker.

Edited: Dec 15, 2019, 8:05am

>60 LesMiserables:

Fortunately we don't have to speculate about who "shall have a sore time of it when he meets his Maker" as Matthew 25: 31-46 is quite clear on the matter:

I was a stranger and you made me welcome... When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome?... In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers {and sisters} of mine, you did it to me... and Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For... I was a stranger and you never made me welcome... And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life.

I couldn't find the bit where it says, "unless the stranger is an economic migrant, abusing the goodwill of foreigners and the politicking of unscrupulous elected officials" (>58 LesMiserables:)

But I think we are diverting this topic somewhat and I would suggest we take this issue to a different thread if you wish to pursue it.

Dec 15, 2019, 4:25pm


Nicely evaded the adultery heresy, well done.

But I'm confused why you would use that quote.

Do you papolatry guys not agree that hell does not exist?

Dec 15, 2019, 11:09pm

>62 LesMiserables:

Don't know what you're talking about. Anyway, this is not a thread about adultery nor heresy nor indeed hell, but about the nativity.

Dec 19, 2019, 4:39am

Pope Francis: Nativity scenes show a ‘domestic Gospel’ (Catholic Herald)

Christmas nativity scenes are a “domestic Gospel,” which helps to make the Holy Family present in one’s home, Pope Francis has said.

He also encouraged every family to have one in their home at Christmas time...

Edited: Dec 23, 2019, 11:22pm

Banksy 'nativity scene' appears in Bethlehem hotel (BBC)

A manger scene by British artist Banksy has appeared at a hotel in Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Dubbed the "Scar of Bethlehem", the work shows Jesus's manger by Israel's separation barrier, which appears to have been pierced by a blast, creating the shape of a star.

On Instagram, the artist said the work was a "modified Nativity".

Israel says the barrier is needed to prevent terror attacks. Palestinians say it is a device to grab land. The International Court of Justice has called it illegal...

Hotel manager Wissam Salsaa said Banksy had used the Christmas story to show how Palestinians in the West Bank were living. "It is a great way to bring up the story of Bethlehem, the Christmas story, in a different way - to make people think more"...

Banksy's nativity – with bullet hole in place of star – unveiled in Bethlehem (Guardian)

Scar of Bethlehem designed to make people think about how Palestinians live in divided city

Dec 24, 2019, 3:05am

Not a picture of a nativity scene but a nativity poem by a colleague of mine in the USA:

Like it or not - Christmas comes with questions...
from the simple ones to the increasingly complex complicated ones,
from the innocent child's expectant wish list to the worry weary widow's prayer list plus.
But also - most importantly, even preciously...
The questions clamor or get ignored or dismissed by those needing to do so...
Were his parents really Mary & Joseph from Nazareth town the north country up from Judean hills?
Was his young mother a pregnant Jewish girl from the Galilee & his father a devout believing decent carpenter guy everyone knew?
Was their journey as an expectant family donkey riding thru the hillside in order to reach that Bethlehem place?
Was there truly no room in the olde local inns - or was there some other limiting factors impacting this delivery?
So Jesus Christ, our Lord Saviour, was born beautiful in a backyard wayside barn of no notice...
where animals, large & small with stranger shepherds of the night keeping their mind's eyes on this child.
And - did that great penetrating guiding light starry shine forth with its unexplained engaging message presence announcement...
confusing the corrupt compromised king while illuminating the destined deliberate way for the unknown unusual Three Wise Ones?
As some would say: "the silent vulnerability of God..." beckoning some response/reaction/aware that something was happening.
Too much, too many, too old, too far away, too intense to be removed, ignored...displaced perhaps amidst pressing predispositions?
Again deep in this December that is the question for each of us & all of us...
That out of the exceedingly ordinary comes excelcis...excellent...
That out of hovering desert darkness, sometimes within, sometimes without, comes great radiant light...
That out of nothing much, it seemed, comes unique lifegiving abundance - such to change the face of the earth, a still-point...
And yes - that out of the purest love comes exceptional hopes transforming everything everywhere everyone possibly forever.
Indeed, indeed - as Emmanuel...GOD-SO-WITH-US...comes anew
to claim us, to save us, to free us, to embrace us, to share us, to connect us to each other, near & love us into eternity.
Such space is grace - such grace is certain space!
CHRISTMAS IS - this awesome profound truth, rooted in our one human family from all times & places & realities...
that in those days long ago in that place we know now as the ancient/historic/challenging Holy Land
our earthly journeys unfolded or bolted out - quite specifically, quite personally - even there, even then.
GOD WALKING WITH US - in us, thru us to bring us to others we need to meet...
MARY MOTHERING US - another poor woman moving beyond hesitations, being gentle Magnificat, unforgettable...
JOSEPH the just one - listening so carefully, patiently, respectfully, without assuming he knew more of God than everyone else, leading.
THIS IS CHRISTMAS - from Nazareth to Nagasaki, Jerusalem to Jordan, Long Island to Lebanon...
This is the Holy Night, the Silent Night, the Joy to the World singing proclaiming, accepting the more of the great CAN BE!
THIS is Christmas - even in Damascus, Iraq, Venezuela, CAR, Seoul, Camden, Chicago, Manchester, DRCongo, Somalia...

In BETHLEHEM, House of BREAD, with David's ancient roots & relatives living stones leaning long into histories....
so near Jerusalem, Place of Peace, where this Child become Man, later became the found wisdom voice come Crucified...
where both cities & situations of old & new pre-occupation witness sustained sufferings for some, for others, for more...not all told..
We fall on our knees.
We crawl up to The Manger with its stinking beasts of burden...and somehow...somehow....we really let go!
We see a radiant mother with her newborn child grateful amidst uncertainty, certain of the great love knitting life between them.
GLORY - to God in the Highest!
GLORY - to the Prince of Peace!

So everyone has a story! Everyone has story...
Do we believe? Do we see the other side of the very-well lighted tree in the corner of our special seasonal celebrations?
Do we believe behaving deliberately with the faith, the hopes, the charity - the openness, respect, dignity, justice all require?
Do we BELONG in The Manger with all those very earthly creatures content with their creator adoring him so simply...
perhaps "knowing" only too well what we have barely dared to understand, embrace, unpack, accept.
Do we still question - just how real can this Jesus be?
Do we still hesitate to let go - to let him love us...abundantly, exceptionally exactly from darkness into great deep light?
He invests the fullness of his life his light in become new creations, new symphonies, new icons, new visions...
new hopes with purposes uniting us with other people well as right here & now...
so that in heaven and on earth with this night of uncertainty SHINING...with our Forever Families at Every Manger
in every sacred space where Christ beckons us HOME HOME HOME...
"Love me as I have loved you " from all time!

joseph cornelius sheehan donnelly
almost christmas: december 2019
brooklyn, new york, usa

Dec 24, 2019, 3:51pm

Last year I mentioned possessing the Three Wise Women (see #33), and thought I'd share an image of them today ~

Edited: Dec 24, 2019, 8:49pm

Daughter has her own small collection of Christmas picture books, and I pulled out two to enjoy.

Mousekin's Christmas Eve was one of a series about a whitefoot mouse. This one was published in 1965. Mousekin finds himself alone in an empty and cold house, and goes looking for a better place to lay his head. He finds entry in a warm and festive household, checks out the decorated tree and the crèche, and nestles down beside a carved sheep.

"Softly sleeping in the rude manger lay a tiny baby, Peace and quiet filled the little mouse. He felt safe at last from the great ghostly world outside."

There is a postscript noting that the nativity figures used by the artist were carved by Anton Lang from Oberammergau, Bavaria.

Dec 25, 2019, 5:13am

Speaking of boats and cages, some of the first shepherds were modeled on the most humble members of Italian society, poor things:

Why Certain Poor Shepherds In Nativity Scenes Have Huge, Misshapen Throats
Nell Greenfieldboyce | December 24, 2019 7:00 AM ET

Heard on All Things Considered (4 minutes, photo, transcript)

Dec 25, 2019, 2:03pm

If you understand German you might enjoy It should be available for a month. It shows creches and those who make them from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Dec 25, 2019, 3:05pm

>70 MarthaJeanne: It stalled on my phone, but I'll try again later. We'll never get to animatronics, but those birds in flight are feasible.
Thank you for sharing!

Here's our iteration this year -

It was last minute, but my grands still enjoy doing it. Notice all the cats in odd places.

Dec 25, 2019, 5:21pm

Nice! We have a leopard, too, that sometimes visits our Nativity. (A souvenir gift from friend who visited Africa.)
I like the electric candles. Ours is on a sideboard with mirror from which we hang star ornament and golden beads. Could use a little more light. :)

Dec 26, 2019, 1:32am

This simple four-piece nativity scene was made for me by my goddaughter when she was a small child. She's now in her mid-thirties, but we still put this crib up every Christmas.

Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 6:30am

Aww, nice. Treasured, no doubt--no nicks after all these years, and Joseph's upraised arm is still intact!

Dec 26, 2019, 8:30am

>69 margd: I'd never come across that feature before. Hm.

The second picture book in daughter's pile is Room for a Little One.

Martin Waddell's name got this book to market, but it is much less well known artist, Jason Cockcroft, who made this book a keeper. The soft, peaceful illustrations are luminous. The original stable occupant, Kind Ox, is the central character here. Various animals, some natural enemies, wander in looking for warmth and shelter. Ox invites them all in. Old Dog is particularly well done.

Dec 13, 2020, 9:43am

Good morning and blessings of the holiday season to you.

I've acquired two more picture books.

This is the Star is written in cumulative verse, much like The Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. At first I expected to be annoyed, but it wasn't bad.
The illustrations are very nice, with the luminosity of >75 2wonderY: and an almost photographic technique.


I will be looking for more of Gary Blythe's work, particularly The Garden.

Dec 13, 2020, 9:55am

The second acquisition is A Child's Story of the Nativity. It was published in 1943. My copy is in pretty good condition for it's age; it has certainly been treated with respect.

I'm going to show you a cover with more color saturation than mine:

The artist is Masha, who did much of the early work for the Little Golden Books.

Although everyone is blonde here, there is a delicacy and richness and even power on some of the pages.

Dec 13, 2020, 11:07pm

Why is Darth Vader in the Vatican’s Nativity scene? (America Magazine)

The Vatican unveiled its official Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square on Friday evening, surprising some with its depiction of an astronaut and another figure wearing a Darth Vader-esque helmet coming to adore the Christ child... Contemporary cultural figures like this year’s astronaut have often been included in the Vatican’s Nativity scenes...

Pope Francis wrote in a letter on Nativity scenes last year that the birth of Christ’s “portrayal in the creche helps us to imagine the scene. It touches our hearts and makes us enter into salvation history as contemporaries of an event that is living and real in a broad gamut of historical and cultural contexts.” He continues: “Children—but adults too!—often love to add to the nativity scene other figures that have no apparent connection with the Gospel accounts. Yet, each in its own way, these fanciful additions show that in the new world inaugurated by Jesus there is room for whatever is truly human and for all God’s creatures”...

Dec 14, 2020, 10:38pm

The nativity set is alive and well, whatever you think of the Vatican’s (Crux)

somehow I always manage to be blindsided when the annual fracas over the Vatican’s nativity set breaks out. It’s as predictable as the rising and setting of the sun, really. Whenever the display is unveiled we’re in for a new round of snark and pique, and this year certainly hasn’t broken the mold...

Dec 15, 2020, 5:41am

Fr. Joe Maier, who worked in Bangkok slums, used to send Christmas cards from Thai kids' ink drawings of the Nativity. Sad to see the kids' obvious acquaintance with poverty, but their Thai perspective was always fun.

Fr. Maier's article below features a more detailed, upbeat example of the children's art: note that three Wise Men are Europeans wearing ties and riding an elephant! Surprising to see sheep in the drawing, but apparently (sheared!) sheep have become a popular oddity in steamy Thailand: Stars are a focal point at Christmas, as in Philippines.

Christmas Letter 2019
When gifts arrive in the form of the children in our lives
Father Joe Maier | 25 Dec 2019 at 04:00

Thai Buddhists have rich tradition of angels depicted guarding their temples, that are sometimes borrowed for Nativity scenes: . Sold out now, so I can't find photo, but UNICEF holiday catalog featured a celadon Nativity with a traditional Thai angel.

Dec 20, 2020, 10:14pm

Pope: 100 Nativity Scenes exhibition ‘great catechesis in our faith’ (Vatican News)

Pope Francis invites pilgrims in Rome to visit the “100 Nativity Scenes” exhibition...

Edited: Dec 31, 2020, 8:06am

This year's home display was circumscribed by the events of 2020. Daughter's decorating was reduced in consideration of a rowdy puppy and a broken wrist, plus the fact that I couldn't visit.

My own collection was mostly stored in a house in another state. In the middle of a move, I had just a basic set available. Two year old grandbaby plays with a farm stable and animals at my house all the time. It was simple to add the Holy Family there and introduce her to their names.

Rummaging in the old house this week, I found a gift from MarthaJeanne which I haven't yet utilized. She sent me Die große Weihnachtskrippe, a collection of nativity characters painted by Josef Führich for his own family.

I'll try to fix touchstones later.

Dec 31, 2020, 9:29am

I had three nutcracker wise men approaching our nativity. (Like you, I incorporate many elements! Gold beads, silver bells, and star draped above. Lit, miniature trees. Stray plastic leaves. Arctic fox figurine, etc. )

For decades now I've been collecting nutcrackers, mostly bought on clearance after the holidays. I'm particularly pleased with the wise men as I finally found the third one a year ago, after years of making do with two. :)

Dec 31, 2020, 9:54am

>83 margd:. I hope you’ll share a photo!

Dec 31, 2020, 10:02am

If only it were that easy... :(

Jan 3, 7:53pm

I went looking for the purported names of the three wise men and found a nice short video that explains where a lot of the accouterments of Christmas come from - Isaiah. I wasn’t aware of some of the details Before:

Jan 6, 5:41am

I spotted these guys nearing their destination

And then I found this sweetie at the thrift store and brought her home. Yes, that's a book on her belt.

Edited: Jan 6, 10:48am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Join to post