John Nagy ’00M.A. | December 23, 2018
Editor's Note: This piece is part of "12 Days of Classics," a holiday series drawn from the magazine's archives and published at magazine.nd.edu from Saturday, December 22, 2018, to Wednesday, January 2, 2019. Merry Christmas!
The truth is, I didn’t want to attend the crèche pilgrimage.
It was a December afternoon, the second Sunday of Advent. There were bills to pay, baskets of laundry to fold, the Colts on television and a NFL playoff picture taking shape. There was a couch, a blanket and a little patch of winter sun, speaking in unison a word I could barely hear but am pretty sure was nap.
A nap versus nativity scenes from around the world? To me, the choice was obvious.
But my kids had already convened in the front hall to pull on coats and shoes. My wife, Alicia, smiled at me and opened our door. I thought of Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightley telling Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma how he doesn’t want to go to the winter ball. I just want to stay here where it’s cozy.
All to no avail. So we drove to Notre Dame and pushed our way into the crowded and toasty lobby of the Eck Visitors Center. We arrived in time to catch the first notes of “Mary’s Boy Child,” sung by a Glee Club detail in four-part harmony.
There atop a pedestal and inside a glass box was the most curious nativity I’d ever seen. Carved by hand out of a rich, dark wood and polished to a luster, the customary figures were all present. Three kings, a few humble shepherds, an ox, donkeys and a pair of Bactrian camels waiting reverently nearby, all before a simple wooden shelter. Inside, a Manchurian couple stood on either side of the tiny babe resting in the manger. The most fanciful carvings were fig trees, which framed the scene like giant, petrified bonsai.
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