A reader “couldn’t agree more” that the nativity scene shouldn’t look so clean and pristine:
This is one reason the [above] image has always been a favorite of mine among nativity scenes. It’s from the early 1400s, by the early Northern Renaissance painter known as the Master of Flémalle. Just take a look at how scrawny, sickly, and unappealing that barn-born infant is, lying there in the dirt!
But another notes:
The virgin birth includes a lot of theology (which might be speculative) that it wasn’t as ugly or messy as women who aren’t virgin nor immaculately conceived.
That said, the Manger scenes are usually too clean (it wasn’t in a barn, it was a cave!). The stoic and pure (carrying an easter lily) Joseph? There was an umbilical cord and placenta – I haven’t read anything saying he was born without these.
We seem to confuse flashiness and gaudy scenes with celebration. Christmas should be a humble holiday. Joyful, but solemn. Like the birth of Jesus. Mary had many sorrows, the birth of her son was not one of them, even in the process.
Another notes regarding the representative nativity scene we posted:
Perhaps they could start with a family that looks more fitting a Middle East setting than a white upper-class family from Stockholm.
The manger would also be full of animal shit as well. It was a stable, not a hayride.
Speaking of shit:
For more realism in nativity scenes, go to Catalonia, where any self-respecting nativity scene features a “caganer,” which is traditionally a shepherd taking a dump behind the manger. These days, of course, pretty much any public figure of any renown has a caganer made in his honor: