We’ve always called it the Manger Scene, and that’s the label my mother wrote on the side of the old box it’s kept in, but I suppose it’s really a Nativity.
Back in 1945, before even my older brother was born, my mother, newly married, began assembling a Manger Scene, to set up on the mantelpiece at Christmas. I imagine the first figures she bought were Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. By the time my memory kicks in, ca. 1952, we had an angel, most of the 3 wise men and a few shepherds and sheep, plus some (now) rather spindly fir trees.
I remember getting the youngest shepherd (the one with the bagpipes) plus the camel and the donkey. I think we could now call the whole scene complete, although later we added the palm tree (much more geographically appropriate than the pine trees) and another sheep, alas now plastic.
They were traditional Italian figures, I suspect something like 59 cents each or thereabouts from Woolworth’s or Kresge’s, located a short streetcar ride away, or a long walk, at Queen St E and Lee Ave in Toronto. Or perhaps from Eaton’s or Simpson, a longer streetcar ride at Queen and Yonge.
I’ve seen the same figures in the same poses over the years, looking nowhere near as elegant as these.
And they look just as nice today on my mantel in 2009 as they did in my childhood memories.