Friday, November 28, 2008

Nativity sets - advent

I grew up without getting Christmas presents.

Mum liked to make sure that we remembered the 'True Meaning' of Christmas.
She reminded us that it was Jesus's Birthday.
It never worried me, as my birthday is 1 wk before Christmas, however, Mum's way always made sense to us, so we didn't feel like we were missing out.

Being brought up on a farm, we'd always go for a drive to find the perfect 'real' Christmas tree, chop it down and decorate it...with no presents underneath...haha!
We'd have massive Christmas celebrations with family.
I have 42 cousins, so there was always a lot of fun and always too much food.

The thing that affected me the most at Christmas time, was the Nativity set.
We'd love unwrapping each figurine and setting it up.
Mum's nativity set always had a 'removable Jesus'.
Then she would hide the Jesus, and not put Him in till Christmas Eve, after we'd been to Mass.
We would rush inside after Church to see if He had been born.
The memories are so lovely, as we never rushed in for presents, but to see if the Lord Jesus was born.

After the nativity set had been set up (at the beginning of Advent), mum taught us that the manger had to have heaps of hay in it before Jesus was born, to keep Him warm.
So she said that each time we did something 'good', we could go find a piece of straw and place it in the manger...secretly.
Making sure that Jesus's bed would be warm when He was born, was our motivation to do good things.
What a great idea!

There was also a special way our nativity was set up.
We'd always place the donkey and cow behind the manger, so they breathed on Jesus to keep him warm.
The sheep always were in front of Him (facing Him), the angel hanging or behind the cow/donkey, watching over Him.
Mary and Jesus were obviously on either side.
The shepherd's on the left & the Kings on the right.
And they were all facing in towards the baby Jesus.
It's so funny, because when I see other nativity sets set up, I feel like changing them and placing them the way I was taught:)

So now I do the same with my children.
However, they get one book each, and it is a story about Christmas or a nice story about Jesus.
I never buy a nativity set without a 'removable Jesus', and they are quite hard to come by.

I understand the 3 Kings gave presents.
However, they gave them to Jesus, as it was His birthday.
All being said, my children don't miss out, as their Nan & Pop give them presents at Christmas time, when we go over there.
I know Christmas time is a time for 'giving', but I've already noticed my children don't concentrate on "present's" at Christmas time, but on the child Jesus and when He will be born and placed in the manger.

Here are some pictures of nativity sets I have bought over the years for my family or God children.
The one with the sand and rocks around it was the one I grew up with, Mum and Dad's.

If you click on the image, you can see them enlarged.


Em said...

Gina, I love this post! So true. We also had a removable baby Jesus, but ours came on Christmas morning. After an exhaustive search, this year i also found a nativity scene with a removable baby Jesus. He's already hidden and Georgie is excited a new baby will be born in the manger on Christmas morning! I recently heard of a western European tradition of growing Alfalfa sprouts on cotton wool with the kids, so they can trim the sprouts and lay them in the crib. You start growing them at the beginning of December and its a way of celebrating Advent as the sprouts grow we are getting closer and closer to the birth of Christ. I think this is such a great idea for kids, provided they don't eatthe sprouts first!!

RD said...

That Alfalfa sprouts idea sounds great Em!
So glad you found a removable Jesus nativity set...they are so much better!

Aliadelaide said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog!

Aliadelaide said...

The alfalfa sprouts sounds a lovely idea. I wonder if it is related to St Lucy's wheat. Have you heard of this? You plant wheat(think bread) on the feast of St Lucy and it sprouts and is beautifully tall by Christmas Day when we remember Jesus coming to us as the bread of life. I love all these Advent traditions. Off to make St Barbara cookies.

Esther said...

What a wonderful post Gina. Thank you for sharing it with us. I love your spirit of Christmas.

RD said...

Another great idea Aliadelaide...the wheat!

My pleasure Esther:)

Cassie said...

We do something similar with the straw and manger. I made a manger out of a treasure box from the craft store and we use rafia as the straw. I encourage my children to do loving acts for one another and they get to put a straw in for each one. We don't do it secretly though. That's a nice touch, but I like celebrating their kindness with them. We all cheer when someone gets to place a straw in the crib. Baby Jesus (.99 cent baby doll from Wal-Mart) shows up sometime afer everyone goes to sleep Christmas eve and they are excited to find him lying there Christmas norning. Santa does bring gifts to our house, but each child only gets three because that's how many Jesus got. It's nice to keep the focus on the reason for the season! I love the idea of the Nativity set with removable Jesus, but mine is an antique from my grandma, so I'll stick with it even though you can't take Him out. I have a friend who just starts her Jesus out on the other side of the room and He moves closer to the stable each day. Thanks for the post and the great ideas! Thanks to your other commenters too!

RD said...

Great response Cassie, and nice ideas.
I love the baby Jesus starting at the other side of the room and getting closer and closer to the manger!

the Mom said...

I absolutely love this post. What a great way to keep the focus on Christ where it truly belongs. Thanks so much for sharing.

Fr John Speekman said...

A great read, Gina, thanks. I think like your mum. I give presents at odd times but I avoid the Christmas present thing .. too commercial and too distracting. You obviously had good parents, and the best way to thank them is to continue the tradition of good parenting.

Janet said...

Oh, I am SUCH a sucker for gifts! Love it! Couldn't imagine Christmas without them! Mind you, I'm not too fussed if I don't GET any - it's the GIVING part of it that I couldn't do without! Even as a child when I couldn't buy anything, I would spend ages making something for each of my family, or would make 'vouchers' to give them (eg. to wash the car, or do something for them). We always got gifts from our parents, but never extravagant (probably a$20 equivalent in today's terms). I'm the same now as an adult, I buy 'bargain' gifts (my aim is $5 or less!), and try to suit them to the person I'm giving it to - the challenge of getting the 'right thing' for the 'right person' at the 'right price' is great! I do Christmas shopping all year round! And then get all excited this time of year when I can start wrapping them all and distributing!
Yes, we also had a removable Jesus (don't you love that term...?!) - and still do. I'm always surprised to see nativity sets in Advent with Jesus alread born. My Kings start off well away from the crib and only arrive later, on the Feast of the Epiphany.
Do you know Pope John Paul II recommended that we always have a little nativity set up in our house all year round? I have a different one for that - just the Holy Family.
Am I rambling...? I think so! Better get back to my wrapping!

Linda said...

I like the idea of no gifts, but once you start something....
We do have it down to one gift from St. Nicholas for each child at least, and their stockings.
We too have the removable Jesus and the youngest child gets to lay him in the manger on Chritmas morning.
I smiled when you mentioned the the donkey and cow breathing on Baby Jesus. We always did the same thing as children!!
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