As I mentioned in my previous post we purchased a new crèche while we were living in Warsaw back in 2000 - a new crèche for the new millennium. There was a little shop, lodged in two small rooms in a cellar just off one of the main squares, filled with the work of Polish artisans - weaving, painting, pottery and wood carving. One day we saw a nativity set that took our breath away in its simplicity. In muted colours with figures, that though still showing the carver's knife, had a more natural look than the more traditional Polish figures around it. It was expensive - by the standards of the day - but we knew it was something we wanted to include in our Christmas traditions.
I found it an odd coincidence that in both our crèches the Mary figure is clothed in orange rather than the traditional white and blue. I can't find an iconographic justification or reason for this, so it may have just been one of those serendipitous choices by two artists twenty years and 8,000 kilometers apart. The figures are carved in various attitudes of awareness of this child in the manager. And following the European tradition the carver (we've lost the bill and of course didn't keep any notes so the only thing we know is his initials - CM) included tradespeople amongst the figures - an apple seller and an oil merchant. Unlike many of the Neapolitan figures they are not going about their business but have stopped to adore the new born infant and perhaps bringing offerings of their wares.
And there is a good chance that this is a miracle crèche: the figurines have been known to change position by themselves in the night. Or at least so it would seem if the "I don't know" response to questions like "Who moved the donkey?" are to be believed. Either that or there are two people in this house trying to stage manage the Nativity.
As a sidebar a bit of Vatican gossip: I have it from a close personal friend of the parties involved (as they say in the tabloids) that the outdoor Presepe in Piazza San Pietro may cause a bit of a stir when its unveiled on Christmas Eve. It's the handiwork of artisans in a small Alpine town near Trent and is nontraditional in several respects including the setting. We must get down to see it over the days after Christmas as there is no way we would even attempt to join the crowds on Christmas Eve.
19 decembre - Santa Fausta