My favourite nativity scene

“There’s no accounting for taste.” That’s my dad’s favourite way of explaining personal tastes that are incomprehensible to him, like living downtown, and riding bike in winter.

The inexplicable factors which determine an individual’s likes or dislikes are probably the only way I can explain why my favourite nativity scene contains a horribly caricatured black magus, a random adoring child attired – to my fancy – like a Roma person, an old shepherd carrying some sort of blunderbuss. And a haloed holy family with an 18-month-old baby Jesus.

This is the "Christmas Manger Set – the Christmas story in beautiful cut-out scenes and life-like figures." See how the 1940s-era family admires the realistic flourishes, like raw wood beams and straw protruding from the edge of the roofline; the rough, broken wood of the stalls; the tasselled camels; the richly dressed magi; the woolly sheep; the Bethlehemites on the path in the background, ostensibly out to get water, judging by the pot atop one’s head; and the two children, who always looked vaguely medieval to me.
There’s no need to remember how to set up the scene each year, since each tab on the floor piece is helpfully labelled “insert old shepherd here,” “insert coloured wise man here”. Of course, after some 20 years of assembling this scene, I don’t know if I need the instructions anymore, though I have always struggled to get one bulb from the strand on the tree to hang down through the conveniently provided hole in the star to illuminate the humble stable.
I like to take ownership of small things, and I claimed ownership of this little diorama. While everyone else [read: my mother] decorated the tree, I placed each part of the nativity set in place. So when, some years after I’d moved out, my parents decided to invest in a new manger scene (I think a good sale price caught my dad’s eye on his errand-running), I couldn’t allow my cherished manger set to languish at the bottom of some musty box of Christmas decorations, never to see the light of day.
Now this tender scene of north European figures, Mary in typical blue, Joseph in brown, graces my coffee table, mantle piece, or window sill, and draws laughter, disbelief, and ridicule from all who see it. But it will always be my favourite manger scene.
There’s simply no accounting for taste.


Dora Dueck said…
Laughter, disbelief? Well we must be two birds of a feather... I think it's beautiful! But as your dad says, there's no accounting for taste.
kar0ling said…
Thanks, Dora. I told this story at the staff Christmas party and many there also admired the set. I think perhaps it was nostalgic for them also, as it was the older demographic who was impressed with the scene. So perhaps I'm not so very odd, merely an anachronism!

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