We all know it’s a given that Christmas lights won’t work when you finally dig them out of their hiding place… but there’s another Christmas hex to beware of…
Anyone who has ever bought into the business of decking the halls will know that there’s a hex on Christmas lights. A double hex, even. First of all, despite putting them away carefully last time and swearing you’ll remember where they are, you can’t find them now.
You pull cupboards apart, risk life and limb climbing into the attic, dig your way through the shed contents… and still they elude you. The second hex of the lights is that, when you do find them (in the attic where you left them and where you’ve looked ten times), they’re not working. Everyone knows this. It’s the law. It’s not Christmas unless you’re lights are elusive and dead.
But there’s another hex on the decks. If yours is a household that observes the Christian tradition of dressing and displaying a crib, you’ll likely know what’s coming next.
If I recount a conversation I eavesdropped on last week, it’ll give you a clue. I was browsing in a fancy goods shop in the hopes that something might inspire me on the gift-buying front. There were smelly candles in the shape of Christmas puddings, heavily chromed angels blowing trumpets, herds of glittery reindeer, inflatable Santa boots and other assorted tat of that nature. I was about to leave when a rather frazzled-looking older lady entered the shop and made a beeline for the counter.
The conversation went something like this:
Frazzled lady: ‘Do you do spare Baby Jesuses?’
Shop lady: ‘For the crib, is it? No. Nothing. I only have a kind of a statue thing of the Blessed Virgin holding the child.’
FL: ‘No. Not what I’m looking for at all. My Jesus is missing. Again. I don’t know how many Jesuses I’ve lost at this stage. I don’t know what happens them at all.’
SL: ‘They’re lucky. Some people think they’re lucky so they take them.’
SL: ‘I know. Fierce annoying when you’re trying to get the crib up. We had to put a Flower Fairy in ours one year. Honest to God. But sure the children were delighted.’
FL: ‘Do you have any of them?’
SL: ‘Flower Fairies? No. I think I have a box of Sylvanian Families somewhere but they’re rabbits, I think. I don’t even have a full crib in stock. Plenty of farm sets with sheep but that’s all I have.’
By now, I was hiding behind a display of festive aprons ho-ho-holding myself up and trying not to guffaw. The Jesus-less lady went on her weary way, no doubt to resume the Jesus hunt in another emporium.
But it got me thinking about cribs and it would seem that Jesus theft is rife. If you google “Baby Jesus stolen”, you’ll get over 10 million hits. Stories from all over the world tell of various crib crimes ranging from the malicious to the you-shouldn’t-laugh-but-you-can’t-help-it type. In the UK last year, Jesus was robbed from Birmingham city centre and replaced with a rather cheerful looking garden gnome. Just this week, Jesus went missing from a shopping mall in Santa Clarita, California. Happily, the figurine was recovered yesterday none the worse for wear. This was the second time, though, that poor Jesus was stolen from that mall. He disappeared in 2009 and was missing in action for eight days on that occasion. On the Santa Clarita Valley Signal website, one of the comments under the story suggests that maybe it’s time to start microchipping Jesus.
But back to my frazzled Jesus hunter. I could empathise with her because, over the years, our crib comprised a fairly motley crew. My crib figures were all shapes and sizes of shepherds, kings and livestock that were plastic outcasts from various crib sets borrowed and inherited from cribs gone before. One year, we had quite a bizarre tableau of dainty little oxen being preyed over by huge sheep. Big, woolly, Godzilla-type mutants.
I took the pain out of the process about 15 years ago by buying a wooden crib. It’s beautifully crafted (Walsh Craft Ltd in Puckane, Nenagh, Co Tipperary) and the little figures fit on to pegs on the base board so they’re secure and not easy to lose. Jesus in his manger is one, integrated piece so less chance of that going astray as well. I think it’s rather lovely, really, and I’m very fond of it.
And just today, I came across another totally charming nativity scene. In a shop in Roscommon, there was just the cutest little crib you ever did see on display. Wait for it… a knitted one! It wasn’t for sale, though. It’s the raffle prize in a fundraiser for the Apostolic Association (who really shouldn’t abbreviate Association to ‘Ass’). Needless to remark, I bought tickets. And the little woolly Baby Jesus won’t be easy for anyone to steal because Mary, with her new mother angst, is hanging on to him for dear life. Go Mary.
But I’m still wondering about my frazzled lady and her empty manger. Is there a Flower Fairy understudying Baby Jesus, I wonder? Or maybe a little Lego man? I do hope not.
I fervently hope – but not in any proselytising way – that she found Jesus.