Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's a cultural thing, okay?

Atheism and Christmas time is a theme that's been done to death, but in all my time I haven't really seen much on a topic near and dear to my heart: the nativity scene.

A nativity scene is about the most religious Christmas decoration you could imagine - small ceramic figures of  Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the wise men and farm animals. It's the first thing you'd expect an atheist family to cast aside.

When I was a kid, my family had a nativity scene. A real basic one - the holy family and some animals. It was without a doubt my absolute favourite part of christmas. I'd set it out and arrange the figures with much joy.

When I went to France at the end of year 11, I had the opportunity to stay in Provence, a region that has an amazing custom of the crèche - a nativity scene that is of such a scale that it extends to incorporate the entire city of Bethlehem. Most families have one with a few dozen pieces; some churches or shopping centres would have ones with hundreds. My host mother had quite a few pieces and we even went on a trip to Frejus so she could visit a market and pick up a new figure or two.

My host mother's creche! Isn't it pretty? (click to see full size)
Remembering my childhood fascinations, I was fascinated with them and was almost going to buy a few figures until I saw the ones at the market cost several euros each (boo!).

A few days ago, amid very droll observations of the presence of Christmas stuff in the stores in August, I thought to myself, "me and Mr Wrong need to buy a christmas tree in the after christmas sales so we have one next year". Then I remembered the nativity scene thing, and all the stuff it meant to me and reminded me of and how "cool" it was.

So you know what I did? I bought one. A legitimate provençale set that's going to be shipped from France with about a dozen pieces.

And you know what? I like the tradition. So I'm going to continue it, religious baggage be damned!

I'd like to hear other peoples' opinions on this. What religious customs are you keeping that perhaps you shouldn't? What customs do you miss?

1 comment:

  1. One of my friends has an entirely plushy nativity scene. It's kinda cute, but whenever I go over I pick up baby Jesus and make "woosh woosh" noises and fly Jesus about.