Thursday, December 25, 2008

Material Culture

So, my mom has a few nativity sets that she puts up around the house around Christmas. When I was little, she would put up a fairly elaborate one involving the model-making equivalent of roll-out turf, a water feature, and some sort of structural framework underneath it all for topography.

This was nowhere nearly as elaborate as the nativity scenes facilitated by the Christmas markets in Spain, where you can find scale models of, among other things, pigs in various stages of life/slaughter/curing/finished product, and miniature eggs: whole, cracked, and fried. (Aside: they also sell masks at these Christmas markets in Spain, and kids wear them for New Year's, and I have yet to satisfactorily figure out why.)

We had some model animals that went into the mix: there were sheep,goats, and camels, and, I think, some ducks. I had (I still have, somewhere!) a set of jungle animals, to pretty much the same scale. There was a jungle section of the crèche where they were supposed to go, but I remember insisting that at least one of the tigers should go threateningly close to the manger.

My family hasn't put a nativity set requiring any effort up in years, though. Today my mom mentioned that the cats have a particular penchant for running through it and knocking it down.

Her solution? Instead of putting up one complex, labor-intensive set, she's put a few small (the tallest one of these is maybe four inches) one-piece sets around:

Classic! Note the emphasis on the manger, what with the thatchiness of the roof. Also (not visible in the photo): the faces are definitely just suggestions.

Essence of Nativity: no wise men, no architecture. The colors on this one remind me of light-up Madonna lawn statues from my Italian-suburban New Jersey childhood.

This was given to me by my friend Lital, who had gone to a conference in Alaska. It's an igloo! And a jewelry box! Snazzy!

My favorite: The Guambiano Nativity.

The Guambianos live in Silvia and other places near the Piendamó River in Colombia, about an hour from Popayán (NB: the Wikipedia article needs editing; it notes, "there is no straw roofs in town anymore although there is plenty of them in the city neighborhood.") There are some Guambianos here and there in Popayán, too. I love the colors on this one. But what I love even more than that is that none of the adult figures are kneeling or sitting: they're all just standing around, as if they don't know what to make of the little swaddled Guambiano baby. And the way they're gathered also always reminds me of this.

Merry Christmas, everybody!


Anonymous tasteofbeirut said...

I love it! Are you starting a collection?

11:36 PM  

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