Friday, December 19, 2014

The Vintage Paper Nativity Scenes

It's common to see Nativity scenes among the Christmas items at estate sales.  Usually the ones I come across are three-dimensional, a stable made of wood or plastic with human, animal and angel figurines, as follows:

1 Baby Jesus
1 Manger
1 Mary
1 Joseph
1 Donkey
1 Cow
Shepherds, assorted
Sheep, assorted
Lambs (optional)
3 Magi
At least one Camel
1 Star
At least one Angel

At a recent estate sale, though, I found a couple of fold-out Nativity scenes made of heavy cardstock paper.

The first one is small, about the size of a postcard.  It folds out so that you can stand it up, perhaps on the mantel above your fireplace:

The text reads "GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO."
It's missing most of the animals you usually see in a Nativity scene, but we still get the point.  The back of the card the tiny maker's mark of the Rust Craft greeting card company.

The other cardstock Nativity scene from the estate sale is much larger, and much more complex:

Deer, goats, a dog, a kitten, a phoenix (?), giant fruit and flowers, angels that look like little blond girls -- they weren't part of the original Christmas story.  But the Nativity scene is a charming piece of mid-20th century Christmas design. It's signed "Artelius."  Helge Artelius (1895-1989) was a Swedish artist.

Here's a link to a great web page with lots of fold-out (and other) Nativity scenes:

Here's a link to a Pinterest page with lots of Christmas art by Artelius:

Speaking of "not in the original story" -- did you know that the donkey is not in the original Biblical accounts of the birth of Christ?  So if you hear someone object to Christmas because they can't believe in a God Who would be so cruel as to make a pregnant woman ride a donkey all the way to Bethlehem, tell them gently that the donkey in the Christmas story is a piece of artistic license.  It isn't there in the Gospels.

And did you know that the three Magi almost certainly didn't meet Jesus until he was a little older?  The real "wise men" were not in the manger scene; we know that because Luke uses the Greek word for "baby" to describe Jesus as a newborn, and Matthew uses the Greek word for infant, a child who was a little older.

Here's a link to a website with the original Greek text for the story of the shepherds:

And here's the story of the Magi:

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