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What do wise ones look like?

January 5, 2013

I don’t have an answer to that question but thought I’d share images and stories from our own small nativity collection.

Our first nativity set was given by my dear former neighbor and still great friend, Barbara, who was into ceramics at the time. When we were expecting our oldest daughter, Barbara gave us a complete ceramic nativity set, unpainted. She said now that we were going to be parents, we needed a nativity set. Yes! It became one of our daughters’ favorite Advent activities, getting out the figurines on each new day of Advent, and yes, sometimes fighting over who got the half naked shepherd boy. We waited to put Baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning, and the wise men & their camels & gifts arrived sometime between Dec. 26 and Jan. 6. So I painted this set while I was “great with child and pondering these things in my heart.”

Ceramic Nativity

My second most favorite set consists of tiny clay figurines purchased during the Christmas markets in December in Barcelona (Spain, where I spent my junior year of college, detailed in this book). I purchased the tiniest version I could find (thinking of how I would pack them for home) and gave the set to my parents who kept it for about 30 years, and they passed it back to me when they moved to a retirement home.


Our third complete nativity is a plastic one I bought so the kids would have a set they could play with to their hearts content (every home needs one that is playable). I first gave it to them when my husband and I were going to one of several Christmas parties one year and we had hired a babysitter (rare event) and the kids got to open it and play with it while we were gone. Somehow one of the wise guy’s presents did indeed became detached from his arms–which was OK, it was for the kids to have and play with! The box of gold is here balanced delicately in his hands (reminder to hang onto our gold lightly??)


My heart still squeezes with tenderness to tell the story of this tiny nativity purchased as an ornament by my youngest daughter when she spent a week at the wonderful Presbyterian Montreat Music & Worship conference, from the Ten Thousand Village store there. It was pricey, probably around $8.95, which is all she had to spend on gifts that week. She bought it and gave it to me, foregoing any gifts for herself. You can bet who will get that ornament back when I move to a retirement home!


Some nativities are so cheap and plastic that you just gotta love ’em. I still have the tiny box this one came in. I think one of the kids got it from a blessed Sunday school teacher. Do you have one like this in your past?


Finally, and this bears a P-rating alert (poopy), my dad’s favorite figurine from the Barcelona purchase described above.


From on Spain Travel we learn this: “Caganer is a little porcelain gnome-like figure with his trousers down, defecating somewhere in the nativity scene. Children enjoy looking for the little guy, who is often hidden among the more traditional items. Surprisingly not invented by the post-South Park generation – Caganer has been offering his unique presents to the nativity scene since at least the middle of the 18th or 19th century, depending on who you believe, although in recent years the Catalan government has banned him from official displays.” See another picture of the Caganer.


While much mystery still surrounds what the wise people from the east actually looked like, and most scenes and artwork include a multicultural mix, the fact that travelers came from afar to see the young child is still pretty amazing over 2000 years later.

A blessed Epiphany: may we still seek him.


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Great post! BTW, the gold is not balanced delicately in the wise man’s hands–his hands broke off WITH the gold box. So you could say it has a rather macabre lesson.

  2. Good catch … Joseph keeps losing his lantern too … what’s that about?

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  1. What do you do with old Christmas cards? | findingharmonyblog
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