Katherine @ The Last Visible Dog had a beautiful and interesting blog post recently about how she was commissioned to make a painting of someone’s favourite things, and how she went about it. (Do have a look – I think you’ll find it worth while!)
Other bloggers, including myself, have been posting about how we decorate our homes for Christmas – or not, as the case may be… In a comment to GB @ A Hebredian in New Zealand on his post The Spirit of Christmas, I said that “Christmas should be about what means something to us. Whether that's represented by a few things or many, is really not important.”
My own tradition is to put up my Advent/Christmas decorations gradually during December. As I’ve been getting on with that, I have also been pondering about what the various “things” in my own home mean to me - those that are there all year round, as well as those I only put up for Christmas.
Actually almost every object represents something more to me than would be obvious to a visitor.
Just take this nativity scene, for example, which I put up on it’s “usual” shelf last weekend. It was not bought as a complete set (maybe that’s obvious!) but is made up of various parts collected over the years.
The oldest item is the little porcelain camel on the right. I got that in early childhood, as a Christmas present from two old ladies: cousins of my grandmother’s, unmarried sisters who lived together, and worked in a gift shop. Unlike the toys one usually gets for Christmas and birthdays at that age, some of the knick-knacks I got from them, are still with me.
For many years the camel remained an odd item for me, as we never had a Christmas Crib in my parents’ home. Well – except for a miniature plastic one-piece, that I got from the same two ladies (I still have that one as well, see below*).
It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties or so, that I happened to find (and bought) the most essential pieces in the nativity scene above: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the three Wise Men, who all came together with the wooden stable.
Still, even put together with the camel, it looked a bit bare. So I added a couple of plastic sheep and a goat from a set of farm animals (from a basket of toys I kept for friends’ children to play with when they came to visit.)
The Christmas card with the shepherds was added when I got it one year from an ex workmate. (She died of cancer 11-12 years ago. Because of her Christmas card now “belonging” to the nativity scene, I remember her every year when I put that up.)
The Angel I found in some shop after I already had the crib. It’s bigger than the other figures, but then I think angels are supposed to be quite impressive! (Or else why would they need to keep saying: “Don’t be afraid!”)
The golden star at the stop of the stable is a little starfish brooch. Not real gold, and not really very important to me – until it was promoted to Christmas Star, that is! (Originally it came as a free gift with some products I bought from a certain cosmetic company, where I was a regular customer for a while. But – it also reminds me of childhood summer visits to the seaside, and finding real starfish on the beach.)
One of the little vases in the background has a camel and palm trees painted on it. It also says “Islas Canarias”. I’ve never been to the Canary Islands myself, though. That vase was a gift from a friend or friends who did go there on holiday once. So besides providing a bit of company for the lonely camel from my childhood, it reminds me of the gift of friendship.
One of the other little vases is a simple earthen vessel (clay jar). I forget where I bought it, but I know why I did. It represents for me a Bible verse:
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7, NIV)