The Visitor - Opinion
Nativity Scene Provides Five Decades of Wonder and Awe
ReflectionMargaret Wethington Arnold
When my father was in medical school at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, he purchased a wood painted and nearly life-size nativity scene from a classmate’s family. In 1960, five years after this memorable acquisition, he packed up the enormous pieces for a move back to Minneapolis, Minn., where it was subsequently displayed each Christmas season for 33 years in the front yard at our home on the Mississippi River. Every year it provided my five brothers and sisters and I with the wonder and awe of Christmas time.
During Advent the twenty-piece scene was exhibited with one spot light illuminating the faces of the Holy Family, the shepherds, the heralding angel, the Magi, camels, cows and sheep all anxiously awaiting the arrival of baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. The set was decorated with fresh local evergreens purchased from a Boy Scouts troop. Fresh straw gave a realistic earthy look and smell.
In our early years, most outdoor Christmas scenes were simple, religious in nature and consisted of very few electric lights. Our large display, with its life-size figures, gave the impression of a festive and joyful place in the day and a magical and peaceful setting in the evening. Whether it was memories of my siblings and I playing in the snow around the crib or our nativity scene greeting us as we returned home from Midnight Mass, our family’s Christmas recollections are connected to this majestic but humble symbol of Christ’s birth.