Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Earthy Look At the Nativity

Oh, the things you learn at Christmastime. 

(Warning:  this post has its rude moments.)

Nativity scenes from Spain and Italy are beautiful -- hand-painted, realistic...and amazingly complicated. I first saw one when I was in grad school at the University of Michigan. I was the housekeeper for the D'Arms family then: I cleaned house and took care of their daughter, in return for room and breakfast. (Lunch too, if I came home at noon and walked the dog.)
     If you ever attended Michigan,you'll recognize the name: John D'Arms was the head of the Classical department when I was there, but eventually became Dean of Graduate Studies at U of M. He was a wonderful guy, if a bit absent-minded, and a wicked jazz piano player.
     Anyways, he also was the director of the American Academy in Rome. And sometime during his and wife Teresa's time there, they picked up an elaborate Nativity scene. Which they displayed under the Christmas tree.

     I grew up with dimestore figures in a cardboard stable, like this:



 Intriguing enough, but nothing compared to the 50 or so figures under the D'Arms' tree. The Holy Family was there, of course, but other figures did everything from selling vegetables, taking a nap, cooking or taking a dog for a walk.

     Once I married The Brick, I started collecting figures for our own Nativity. It's a little more complicated than the norm, but unless you're willing to put out hundreds of dollars (which I am not), the selection starts narrowing. After all, you can only have so many shepherds and Wise Men.
     (Our girlies enjoy moving these around on the sly, and adding other pieces. After they've visited, I sometimes find a dinosaur peering into the Christ Child's face, soldiers and piranha hanging around outside the stable with the sheep, or in deep conversation with a Wise Man. Stuff like that.)


I came across Mitchell's blog, Mitchell is Moving. Mitchell lives in Malaga, Spain, and enjoys visiting the local Nativity scene.  Which includes this:


Otherwise known as "El Caganer," or The Squatter.

Mitchell's link includes a mechanical version of The Squatter -- be sure to click here for the full effect.   By the way, if you're looking for a fun, entertaining read, you'll want to check out more of Mitchell's blogposts. Here's the still version from his second screed on the subject:


Photo used with permission from 'Mitchell is Moving'

Says Mitchell:

    "He hails (or at least the tradition does) from Catalonia and can be found more commonly around Andorra, Valencia, Northern Catalonia, and Southern France. 'El Caganer' means 'the crapper' or 'the shitter.' [This version] is posed more discreetly than he was [before.]"

Gee, I don't remember this figure from the D'Arms' collection. Then again, their figures may not have been Catalan in origin.


Shades of Cousin Eddie.






1 comment:

Mitchell is Moving said...

That video you found is great! Thanks for the visit and for the share! I love what your "girlies" do with you Belen!