Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Nativity: Early 1950s Family Heirloom

This nativity scene has been around almost as long as I have.  Mom told me that, because she didn't have the money to buy the whole set right away, she saved her money and bought the pieces a little at a time. She purchased the stable, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the manger the first year and each year after that Mom purchased another piece. These figurines were bought at our local Ben Franklin store, a "five and dime", within walking distance of our home. Over the years, Mom added the Angel, the Three Wise Men, the standing camel with the colorful saddle, and the three tiny chalkware sheep. That was it, that's what we had. Mom and I re-glittered the star several times when I was a child and Mom even had extra straw for the roof in case it needed replenishing. I still have that little vintage bag of extra straw.

When I got married and had children of my own, Mom decided to pass the nativity scene on to me, and I have displayed it proudly each and every year.

I have always enjoyed antique shopping and I was forever visiting antique malls and flea markets looking for vintage items. One Saturday, when visiting the Wagon Wheel flea market, I spotted the vintage figurine of the Shepherd Boy carrying the lamb on his shoulders. I remember how excited I was to purchase it, and that satisfying feeling I had when I made a place for the old figurine in the nativity scene the following Christmas. After that, I was on a mission to look for more pieces from the same time period that would match the rest of the collection. 

Over a period of about six more years, I purchased the rest of what you see in the photo: the burro, the camel laying down, the standing brown camel, the oxen laying down, and the donkey laying down. Some are plastic, some are chalkware, but they are all from the same time period. Most still have the little purple ink stamp on the bottom that gave the original price which was usually between 15 and 39 cents each. 

There has never been a year since the early 1950s that this nativity scene has not been on display. Sure, there are some dings and missing paint on some, but each figurine is cherished. Every year, I wrap each one carefully in tissue and pack it away under the guest bed...never in the attic where most of the other Christmas items get stored and where it gets hot. I want this nativity scene to last a long time and I hope it will always be cherished as much as I have cherished it. I will pass it down someday, to someone who will love it as much I have.



  1. My mother has some of the same figurines, and most of them have the price tags, too! 15 cents and 25 cents. My uncle built the stable for her, so it is similar but cherished because he has since passed away. I picked up some extra figures for her when we went to Spain because we couldn't find more here in New England. She said she got her figures at Woolworths 5 and 10 cents store!

  2. I never knew about the nativity. I was trying to remember if I remember seeing it while visiting around Christmas time and I don't remember it. What a wonderful thing to have and to cherish. I just showed this to Mike and he says he does remember it. Okay....I am enjoying all this...just don't know how to find things. Still can't find pic of Mike or article from Bob, but will keep trying!