The many scenes of Christmas


What do you think of this Millennials nativity scene? My Millennial daughter found it insulting. I don’t know about Joseph with a man bun but I definitely like the Amazon-package toting wise guys.


This Mexican nativity car was my favorite. So cheerful with everyone waving.

A story about a baby being born in a little town in the Middle East has sparked the imagination of artists too numerous to count.

One of the ways they have depicted this touching story is the manger scene. I love them and find myself studying the faces of the people, the gestures of the angels, the positions of the animals. And I’ll admit it, we have five in our house. One set of statues are tall and white, trimmed in gold. Another was handed down from my husband’s mother and features characters designed by a German nun named Hummel. I have a tiny Mexican set and a hand carved set from Ireland. That was the first one we bought. If I had more shelf space, I’d probably keep collecting them.


This little manger scene fits underneath a mushroom. There were quite a collection of tiny scenes.

So imagine my delight when we went to the Franciscan Monastery this week to see how this Washington DC church was decorated for Christmas. In display cases leading to the church were nativity scenes from all over the world, in different sizes, materials and all the colors of the rainbow.

It is fitting, of course. It is said St. Francis of Assisi created the first such scene. The religious order of men who staff this delightful church was founded by St. Francis. This display comes from the Sullivan Family collection. The couple has collected hundreds of them from 103 families—they inspire me to go back to collecting…

If you are near Washington between now and Jan. 7, go


The variety of dress made each one special. The clothes on these statuettes from Panama was far different from those from Thailand or France.

see them. It won’t take long but the various styles and materials will delight your eye and your imagination. Go around lunch time and stop at Menomale for pizza. You won’t be disappointed. (I get nothing for promoting this Neapolitan pizzeria–I just want to be sure it stays in business.)


A grand manger scene is displayed on the St. Francis altar. Tucked among the poinsettias on the floor was this camel. I almost patted his head.

Can’t get there? Then by all means watch the video here.

Happy Holidays and all the best in 2018!

ⒸText and photos by Mary K. Tilghman