Christmas will be different this year, for most of us. No travel, no family gatherings. I don’t expect to have anybody at all in my house over the holiday period.
But I’ve put up some Christmas decorations anyway. Then I got to the creche, the traditional manger scene. Ours is eclectic, to say the least.
The core of the creche, of course, is the Holy Family – Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. We bought those three figures long ago from the wood carvers in Oberammergau, the village in the Bavarian alps that puts on a world-famed Passion Play every ten years.
The three camels came from a shop in Jerusalem. We were assured they were carved of olive wood from the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane under which Jesus prayed the night of his arrest and trial.
But we didn’t have any Magi to ride in from the East on those camels. So I carved a set of three visitors myself. As a solid mass, blending into each other – as they do in the biblical text, too.
There are some carved wooden sheep – they’re traditional. Also a donkey made by one of our grandchildren out of a toilet paper roll wrapped with string.
Plus a variety of less conventional animals. A hippo, from Africa. A cow, or maybe a water buffalo, from India. An elephant from Thailand. A giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. A ceramic penguin from Chile (I think). And an Irish Setter, in loving memory of our first dog.