Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

A Nativity Story

I have a very fond childhood memory of a Nativity set that belonged to my dad’s Aunt.  Every year we would spend Christmas Eve at her house, and every year I would engross myself in the little white figurines on the hearth, while I waited (sometimes not so patiently) for it to be time to open presents.  The Nativity characters were white and made out of porcelain, and had a magnificent blue velvet lining upon which they were placed.  And although they were extremely breakable and possessed a lot of sentimental value, I don’t recall ever even coming close to dropping any of them – it probably didn’t hurt that my mom was always nearby, ready to invoke her go-go-gadget arm skills at the slightest hint of imbalance on my part.

Anyway, reenacting the Christmas Story with those Nativity figurines was one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  Fast forward to April of 2007 when my family was blessed with the opportunity to go on a once in a lifetime trip to the Holy Land.  I could go on and on about how amazing it was to watch thousands of years of history literally come to life as we explored ancient ruins and walked the same paths that Biblical characters journeyed on.  But in addition to returning with a host of unforgettable memories and photographs, I also managed to come home with what I’d hoped would turn into a family tradition – a hand-carved Nativity set made entirely out of olive wood that I found in Bethlehem!

Every year since then I’ve put that wooden Nativity set out on display, even sometimes when it was our only Christmas decoration.  And every time, I would think of that white porcelain set that I loved, and would wonder if maybe one day my little boy or little girl would love this wooden set just as much.  Last year was Cragbaby’s first Christmas, but he had just turned 9 months old, and was definitely more into all of the twinkling lights and wrapping paper than anything else.  This year however, is a different story.  As a curious and big-hearted toddler, C is soaking up every minute of the holiday season this year – and with the one-finger rule in effect on the Christmas tree, the unbreakable Nativity set has seen quite a lot of action! Several times a day C makes his way over to it, and we spread all the characters out (wise men over here, shepherds over there…) and act out the story together.  C’s favorite character is the angel, and he has a lot of fun doing fly-bys over the sheep (who knew that angels could make helicopter sounds?!?).  He also really likes presenting the wise men with their gifts to Baby Jesus (aka “Jee-Jee”), and lovingly holds them up to the manger while making the same noise he does when he gives a hug (“mmmmmmmm”).

I know it sounds sappy, (its the holidays, so I’m allowed), but sitting there with my baby boy in my lap, watching him savor the real message of Christmas, sends a flood of warmth to my heart that there are no words for.  And I guess that’s the embodiment of what family traditions are meant to be – intimate moments shared with the people you love the most.  It’s one of the many things that makes me realize just how blessed my family is this holiday season.  But I’m sure our family isn’t the only one out there with a ton of traditions and blessings to be thankful for – now its your turn.  What memories does your family most look forward to making over the holidays?




11 Responses to “A Nativity Story”

  1. I love the idea of the one-finger rule. Very Cool!


  2. Benito

    Baby Jee Jee is getting some serious attention! Thanks for the post it made me grin from ear to ear this a.m. I’m super pleased to see modern families continuing traditional customs/ values that defined our culture; for the better I think.


  3. I love this Erica! How sweet. And I have to say that I was so sappy around Christmas when Sam was a baby. I couldn’t help but think I had a teeny window into what it was like for Mary to hold her baby boy. I finally found a Nativity last year that I loved; it’s handmade from Kenya. I also got the kids one of those Little People Nativity sets so they could play to their hearts’ content.

    We travel almost every year, so it’s hard to have Christmas day traditions, so we do Advent through the month. That has been the most fun this year since both of the kids are old enough to listen and do little crafts and things.

    I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas!


  4. Great story Erica! I’m sure in the Bible somewhere it says that the heralding angels made helicopter like sounds so C is being Biblically accurate!

    One of our favorite family traditions is a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve at the theaters and making cookies and candies for family and friends.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family from ours.


  5. Brandy Walters

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Erica! I feel the same way about Lukas – this is the first year he is able to appreciate it. I am loving watching him enjoy the lights in the yards, the lighted houses we have set up, the Christmas trees with their lights and ornaments (only broken 2 so far this year), and our nativity scene. We have a stable with a light that shines on the figurines and so far he knows mommy, daddy, baby Jesus, the angel, and the camel! I love the idea of an unbreakable set though!


    • Jenn – You’re right, I think the Christmas story from Mary’s perspective is a lot more real to me now (as is the terrifying thought of giving birth in a stable beside a cow…).

      Jayson – I like the family tradition of making cookies/candy for friends – we are actually going to start that as well this year for our neighbors.

      Brandy – We haven’t had any ornaments break yet, but minutes after I took the picture for this post I heard an “uh-oh, Cay-Cay” (his word for himself). When I looked, the poor angel’s head had broken off. Thankfully the angel wasn’t part of the Nativity set, it was a random figurine (NOT wooden) that a student had given me back when I was teaching. A little glue and she’s back helicoptering around the shepherds again!

  6. Tonya

    this brought tears to my eyes 😉 thank you for sharing!


    • April Mafturak

      Ditto!!!! Beautiful message! 😀

  7. Manuela

    What a beautiful family tradition you are creating for the C! I love that you are able to pass on some of your special memories to your little one. Thank you for sharing!
    BTW – what exactly is the one-finger rule? You must explain!


    • Tonya and April – It’s okay to be sappy over the holidays. 🙂

      Manuela – One-Finger Rule = C can touch anything on the Christmas tree he wants as long as it is just with one finger. He is excited b/c he can touch anything he wants w/o getting in trouble, and I’m excited b/c he’s not trying to take ornaments off the tree and breaking them right and left. (It also works well in stores…). I like it b/c he still has fun and I’m not saying NO all the time. 🙂

  8. On the topics of Nativities: last year we went to a live nativity and am eagerly looking forward to doing it again. There is something about seeing the people there- acting out the story with really donkeys and sheep, that makes the story more real. And the kids love it!


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN