Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas scenes

In the Christmas season, homes offer a variety of Christmas decorations and settings. Whether modest or grand, they always cast me back to childhood memories, the main one being dad’s unique Nativity.

His scene was mounted on a raised platform around a fresh pine tree. He had the basic figurines and the rest was made from any scrap materials he could find. He built a wooden stable, surrounded by shepherds and sheep. The three kings made their way along a path, plaster camels following. Palm trees were fashioned with bits from the garden. The landscape was complete with little cardboard houses with twinkling lights inside. The whole thing wasn’t always to scale—sometimes the camels were dwarfed by the Wise Men. The distinctive feature of dad’s scene was the water that ran along a little creek and splashed through a water wheel, courtesy of a concealed pump. I’m not sure that water wheels actually existed in Bethlehem, but it added magic to dad’s Nativity. Above everything, dad hung the guiding star, lit by a well-positioned, hidden light bulb. He left the crib empty with all players in the scene serenely waiting. The atmosphere was heavy with expectation, until baby Jesus appeared on Christmas morning.

As a child, the working wheel and the twinkling lights made this more appealing than the legendary Myer windows. As I grew to adulthood, I became more appreciative of my father’s creativity and the effort he put into making people happy. We were poor and in those early days, he used his ingenuity and his artistic skills to bring the scene to life.

Over the year’s dad’s nativity, scenes have attracted attention. In the 1970s, he built one that filled our dining room. I can't remember where we ate dinner that year, but the local paper sent a photographer and ran an article on dad’s seasonal efforts.

Dads’ in his eighties now, and every year he still makes a Nativity scene for a local church. Even with shaking hands, he manages to fashion the houses and trees, and put all the figures into just the right spot. It still has a water wheel, and it’s still out of proportion, but everyone loves it.

So, as you enjoy people’s decorative efforts this year, think about the work that your fellow citizens have put into sharing the Season with you—and spare a thought for dad’s camels, having to carry the giant Wise Men.