Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Here and There, Then and Now, A Christmas Link. . .

Just a quick Word-less Wednesday post. If you've been following my Advent Calendar postings on Instagram -- a daily photo of festive shop windows collected on our recent travels --  you might remember that I posted a Bordeaux window full of very cute, miniature crèches in sleekly contemporary porcelain and crisp, almost irreverently cheeky, graphics. I'd had to rush past that window, already almost late for a French lesson, and I regretted that I'd never even got inside, let alone picked up a Nativity set (not that I'd have been able to make room in the carry-on-only for it, but perhaps I'd have convinced my guy to check luggage going home).

Here's that Instagram post, for those who don't follow me there or who missed it, and I followed it up with one that gave a close-up of the figures. By the time I posted a third photo from that Bordeaux design-shop window, I was kicking myself for not bringing the crèche home along with a few starter pieces, even more annoyed that I hadn't even taken time to check who made it, and where else it might be available.  After all, having a crèche in the house had been a must from my earliest memories -- from a mid-sized table top version when I was barely school-age to a practically church-worthy version my parents set up in the foyer of their large heritage home.  Then as a young mom with more time than money, I made a cloth version from a pattern and I think we disguised an orange crate as the shelter.  I can't remember when we last set that up -- but I know it's long gone, and the notion of a crèche in these secular days, our kids grown, didn't seem very important, barely relevant.

But with the grandchildren so interested in stories now, and with the Story of the Nativity still part of our cultural storehouse, no matter one's religious beliefs, I thought, as I reviewed the photos from Bordeaux, this charming set would have been a perfect way to introduce the key elements at the heart of what we celebrate December 25th. . .

Oh well,  opportunity missed, better add that crèche to the shopping list for next year in Bordeaux. . .

And then last Saturday morning while our new furniture was being delivered, I walked up to my neighbourhood yarn shop (Yes! I now have a neighbourhood yarn shop -- Three Bags Full -- and it looks great!) and on the way, I decided to check out a design/home furnishings shop I've been curious about. Not four feet into the store, and I spotted the same Nativity Set I'd admired in that Bordeaux window. Turns out it's made by Alessi (you know, of the brilliant whistling-bird tea kettles?) -- and is at least as charming in person as it is seen through a window or in a photo.
I made some pretense of having it on hold while I thought about it, but that was a very short game, and yes, the delightful "starter kit" came home with me -- Tucked between Mary and Joseph here are the busts (I know!) of a cow and a donkey, and the two angels in front will be joined later (January 6th, the Epiphany) by Three Wise Men. Jesus will join his earthly parents on Christmas morning, as you might expect -- for now, expectant Mary sports an oversize heart.
We're short on display space at the moment, as we figure out this new home, and with grandchildren close by, this heirloom-in-the-making needs to be accessible to looking but not-so-much for touching.  This will do, for now, but I hope that in future years there might be a dedicated spot that I might even surround with some evergreen branches. I've let go of so many Christmas traditions and accoutrements and nostalgic treasures through this move as well as with the inevitable changes in our family -- it's rather cool, I must say, to have made a start on a new Christmas element that suits our urban lifestyle while folding in some memories from earlier years.

Not so word-less after all, was I? What a surprise. . . ;-)

23 comments:

  1. What a fun story! While I am more spiritual than religious, and my mother was a proclaimed atheist, she never understood the time and effort I put into having my children understand the Christmas story. As my grown children navigate their own spiritual life, I am confident they approach the process from a place of knowledge.

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    1. Yes, this is what I hope for as well -- and interesting that your mother's uncompromising stance freed you to choice, and you passed that along. My concern as someone who taught literature at university for many years is how many of this generation have no familiarity with some of our foundational stories, which are so often referenced in our art and literature.

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  2. I have a nativity set given to our family by my great-great aunt. I have never been religious although, as an older adult I appreciate a " faith community", but I have always enjoyed the Christmas Story. Your scene is fun and can be a new tradition. I used to love a giant Nativity scene in front of a church in East Richmond. I think that, in order to appreciate Western Art and Music, a basic knowledge of the Bethlehem story is essential. I really like Mary's big heart!

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    1. Ah yes, exactly what I think, as you can see in my response, above, to Carol.
      Isn't Mary's big heart perfect? It encompasses so much of what is important about this story.

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  3. Wow, how lucky was that?! I'm so glad you were able to track down the set, especially as you weren't even really looking for it. I love the whimsical look.

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    1. So lucky that I only hesitated for a moment about the price tag -- it was obviously meant to come home with me!

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  4. Serendipity and it's Italian! Buon natale Mary

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    1. Yes! Italian! Buon natale to you as well Mary.

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  5. Your new set is wonderfully whimsical, which I imagine will capture the imagination of the "littles." I thought I was the only one who added the figures at the appropriate time per the story: first the stable animals, Mary and Joseph; the babe on christmas day; then the shepherds and sheep; and finally the wise men, or the wise guys as I still irreverently call them. Here's to new traditions and the honoring of old stories.

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    1. It is whimsical, isn't it? The Wise Guys -- irreverence is its own kind of respect, isn't it?
      I love the drama of adding the figures -- and my little ones will know that the Twelve Days of Christmas begin AFTER Christmas and end on the Epiphany when we'll finally add the Three Wise Men. . . instead of assuming they begin before Christmas, as seems to have become common this year, suddenly... (#petpeeve)

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    2. This is a pet peeve of mine, too. Although I put out all of the figures at once (I didn't grow up in a liturgical community), we like to commemorate Advent as the prelude that crescendos into Christmas when the celebrating truly begins. Living overseas, I was appalled by so many of our American friends for whom it was all over on the 25th, and some even took their decorations and trees down that evening.

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  6. What a story! And a surprise,it really had your name on it!
    It would be fun for your grandchildren!
    I even made the whole Nativity scene of plasticine (I am not artistic but I'm great in improvisation,baby Jesus and Mary were great :-),naive art-like) when my son was little but always forget the thing with adding figurines-how smart!-I put it all ad once. Have to remember for the grandchildren
    Love Alessi-colourful and funny and smart (and italian!)
    Dottoressa

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    1. Do you still have that Nativity scene? I love that you made it out of plasticine!
      I also love Alessi -- got to see quite a few pieces at an exhibition of Contemporary Design in Bordeaux last month. Marvellous!

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  7. Love everything about this - the whimsy of the scene, the serendipity of finding it in Vancouver, and the importance of some sense of biblical literacy in order to understand our culture.

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    1. Nice summary of what I love about this also Lorrie, thanks!

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  8. How lucky you were to find that nativity set at home after your regrets of missing it in Bordeaux!
    I have a set of white ceramic figures with red decorations which an aunt of mine brought from Mexico way back in the 70s. I confess that I do not bother with setting them up one by one but rather arrange the whole set at the beginning of December. My justification is that this is how they do it in Spain, or so I am told... But I also put up four candles in between and every Advent sunday I add a light.
    As for the story of Bethlehem, this year I presented it to my class of refugee children, all of them muslim. Not with any religious intentions, of couse, but simply to help them understand what they see and hear around them at this time of the year. They were quite thrilled. After all, most of them could easily imagine what it is like to spend the night in a stable...

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    1. If the Spanish can. . . . why not? I used to do an Advent wreath and candles when my children were small -- three purple and one rose, and we'd light them each night. Lovely to hear that you still put yours up; I haven't for years.
      And I'm charmed beyond measure to hear that you tell your refugee children the Bethlehem story, as a story that provides context for the new culture they are joining -- and your last sentence! I suspect you must be a wonderful teacher.

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  9. Apologies for the Scots putting 2 + 2 together and making an igloo of 5 on IG!

    How lovely that you found the nativity scene in Vancouver!

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    1. Don't be silly -- no apologies necessary! It does look a bit igloo like, and we Canadians do get an igloo-association. . .

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  10. So perfect... This and the skirt were meant to be, as a sign to help you settle in this new urban life :)

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    1. Thank you Marie-Odile! We had another exciting sign yesterday as well -- I'll have to post about it soon.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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