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Monday, 21 December 2015

Spot the Frippet: nativity.

Art reflects the society which produces it, and I suppose this is why Nativity Scenes vary so widely. 

And, I might add, wildly.

Let's start with something intricate but basically humble: this is a paper Nativity from 1900s Germany:




It's intricately done, but it's no good if, as in Poland and Hungary, you want to take your Nativity from door to door:



This is a Polish one. They have competitions, apparently.

But what if the politically correct thing is to celebrate, not the birth of God, but the common man? Well, since the French Revolution Provençal Nativities feature santons: these are pottery figurines that represent local workers such as scissor-grinders or chestnut sellers.

England, I'm proud (in an appalled sort of way) to say, gave us a Celebrity Nativity complete with a waxworks David Beckham as Joseph.

An Australian nativity will often display the odd koala or kangaroo, South America perhaps a llama, and in Catalonia there'll be a caganer, which is, well, one of these:



The caganer is said to fertilise the earth ready for the next year's Nativity, and in Catalonia it's very unlucky to have a Nativity without one.

The USA has drive-through Nativities, commonly with scenes involving live animals. In Southern Italy a Nativity might include a mock-up of a whole rural village, complete with displays of traditional crafts. They've even been televised.

So, where did the Nativity trend all start? As one of St Francis of Assisi's teaching aid. His Nativity was a live one, too, with humans and animals. Luckily he even had a cave handy to stage it in.

And what of my own Nativity? Mine looks like this:



though my own camel is a Victorian wooden toy one, and I have a donkey that's a bit like a bottle brush.

At the moment, of course, my three kings haven't yet arrived - they're still making their way down the stairs.

And the tiny baby Jesus is still hidden under Mary's skirt.

Spot the Frippet: Nativity. This word comes from the Late Latin nātivitas, birth.





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