Tuesday, December 17, 2013



In looking for pictures to accompany a little reminiscence of Christmas, I Googled “Nativity Scene,” and got floods and archives of everything from actual pageants, with live animals, to ivory crèches and plastic roof-only little depictions, with varying numbers of participants, from just Mary and Joseph with the Baby, to enormously-elaborate carved sets with enough folks and animals to populate Oberammergau.


And one little oddity caught my eye---in the little plastic ones I was looking for, was a strange little figure, always striding in from the left, clad in anachronistic high-boots, tam and Alpenstock, with a knapsack on his hip.   I first took it as a little inside joke, perhaps, on a Made in Germany model.   But no, he appeared in the Hong Kong and China editions, as well.   And perhaps they ARE copies of that original little thought which began as a jest, and has been perpetuated-in-plastic for some time now.

Sometimes he seems wearier than others, more care-worn, more exhausted from the long, long journey.


And others, he seems to burst in from Stage Right with a bright clarity, eager to see the Babe, rushing  to arrive.

Now I’m wondering about his history, his enduring entrance into such a way-before-his-time tableau, and it strikes me that EVERYBODY’S welcome.   Anybody could have walked right up to that gathering, and been welcome to stand
and worship, or rest a while in the meager shelter. 

In this photo, he seems obviously shepherd, for the walking staff has a decided crook. 



The tableaux are always the same, with all the expected figures in the same places, and the onlooker/ visitor walking right in.  He’s always attached to the scene, glued in his accustomed spot, and I wonder---if ever he were included in the separate figures that we all arrange on our buffets or beneath the tree---would we wonder who he IS, and how he strayed into the Christmas box, and where would we PUT him?   Is he the Wanderer we’re told to welcome and comfort? 
I know.   The strangest things capture my imagination, and off I go.   But the enduring little character, with his hiking boots and Alpenstock/staff, his bright little pair of plus-fours, appears to be from Europe, dressed for days in the mountains, or from Scotland, ready for a long hike in the Highlands, strayed somehow into such a moment in time which changed the world.
It’s WAY early, and I’ve been up since just before four, so my thinking processes are either alert and sending those synapses into overdrive, or I’m soggily musing on what might be.   Train of thought; stream of consciousness---whatever it is that sends my thoughts flying beyond reasoning.
Perhaps it’s because I woke up smiling, thinking about Sweetpea’s pronouncement at Christmas a couple of years ago, “And did you KNOW that Baby Jesus had to sleep in the sheep's dish?”
It just seems such a sweet little oddly-arranged COME YE, that it’s just taken my imagination for a run around the block before the caffeine has kicked in.  Anybody know who the little figure represents?



Dorothy said...

I've never seen or heard of the extra figure in the Nativity Scenes! It's an interesting thing, though. If you find out, please post about it!
Merry Christmas!

Chesapeake said...

Just fascinating to hear of this, and to see all the pictures of the different creches with him included. It will make yet another excellent Racheld post when you ferret out the facts/source of it!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I love this, and to be honest, I don't remember him in our childhood crèche. But he DOES look familiar. So I must have seen him in other creches. How odd that he is wearing a tam. Not sure if this is the reason or not, but there has always been talk that the Celts (Scottish and Irish) are the lost tribe of Israel. The thing is, sheep weren't introduced in large quantity until long after Jesus was born, and they were actually the thing that drove many tenants off the estates because their jobs were eliminated. Apparently they needed the land for grazing or something like that. Now, I know that's a looooooong shot, but I just wanted to add some more logs on the fire of curiosity. :-)

As for the staff with the crook in the end, it was used to hook sheep when they had fallen into a rocky crevice or a hole of some sort. His, though, looks a bit narrow for hooking sheep. ;-). It had to be tall enough for the sheep to see and follow. They don't see very well, but they know the voice of their shepherd and can see the staff ahead of them. And the Biblical rod? It was used to fend off predators (which I just typed as creditors, a synonym), and it also reassures the sheep as the Bible says.

I am going to be wondering about this ALL day! LOL



Bev said...

Sleeping in the sheep's dish. Love this!

Kim S. said...

He’s a lovely mystery! The French have a tradition of little nativity figures called ‘santons’. The figures can represent almost any kind of person or activity or profession. Some are ancient and some very modern. Your little fellow might be something along those lines. Odd that he’s in so many ordinary little fixed nativities, though!