When I was a little girl, I loved everything about Christmas. I especially loved all the holiday decorations my mom would put out on display: the Santas, the little trees, holly leaves and berries, choir-boy candles. I loved it all!
There was always one thing I wanted, though, that we didn't have in my childhood Christmas decoration collection: a nativity set!
Oh, how I coveted a nativity set! When we would visit someone else's home, and they had a nativity set up for the holiday, I would just stand there and look with longing. I wanted to touch the figures; to move them and arrange them. They just seemed so magical and exotic to me as a child.
But, alas, I went through my entire childhood without a nativity scene!
I swore that, one day, I'd have a set of my own. So . . . as an adult. . . I began collecting Fontanini nativity pieces. I started with the basic holy family (Mary, Joseph, and baby), and added a piece each year. Wise men. . .
Shepherds. . .
Angels. . .
Animals of all types. . .
Until, really, I had to declare a moratorium!
From her very earliest Christmases, Erin loved the nativity set. (In fact, one of the reasons I chose to collect Fontanini pieces is that they are made of resin and are durable enough for chubby toddler hands to touch without worry.) Each year, she helped me choose the newest pieces to add to our collection, and, until a couple of years ago, Erin served as my Official Nativity Manager. She unpacked it each year, and carefully set it all up. When she was young, she arranged and re-arranged the figures several times each day. (As a child, she called the pieces her "Bible Action Figures.") As she grew older, she used to have some fun making up dialog and setting up interesting scenes and groupings with the various characters in the nativity.
Now, though, she's on her own, and not around to manage my nativity anymore. So it's mine! All mine! I love getting the pieces out each year, and carefully setting them up. It takes me back to my own childhood longing . . . and ties me to Erin's growing-up years. At first, I thought it might be hard to set up the nativity without Erin, but, really, it isn't! When I unwrap each piece, I smile and remember her joy -- and it really feels like she's present . . . right there in my nativity!
And as for Erin? Well. I started her off with a Fontanini nativity set of her own a couple of years ago. She was quite excited to set it up for the first time in her own apartment this year. She thought her set-up looked a bit meager, though, with just the holy family and a small angel. . . so she and her boyfriend added a few proxy pieces to the manger scene.
I don't know about you, but I think they've begun their own, entirely unique, nativity tradition!