The Narrative Behind the Nativity Scene

Holy Family NativityWhen I was a little girl, my mom, grandma, and aunt attended a weekly ceramics class at a studio located in the basement of a woman’s home. The studio provided the space, materials, equipment, and a few helpful artistic suggestions along the way. Given she was a young stay-at-home mom to three children, the classes provided my mom with a welcome respite and outlet to share her creative gifts. The weekly outings also allowed her to have special time with my grandma and aunt. After class, they would often head to Country Kitchen and enjoy an apple dumpling and scoop of cinnamon ice cream. I imagine a cup of coffee or two was also on the menu. What a wonderful bonding opportunity.

Over time the three handcrafted many keepsake items. Some of the final products now occupy a place in my home. But there is one project that stands above all others as a masterpiece: the Nativity scene. Over the course of several months, my grandma, mom, and aunt all set out to create crèches for each of their homes. There were three mold sizes to choose from — small, medium, and large. Recognizing the largest size would cost more and require more labor, my mom still selected it because she wanted the final product to be substantial. After all, a Nativity may be the most expressive representation of Christmas. Each week, the three crafted a new piece of the Nativity. It was a stepwise process that required commitment and diligence, two character traits my mom exemplifies.

I just returned from a visit to my mom’s house where we enjoyed reminiscing about how the Nativity came to be. Despite his lack of direct involvement, the Nativity stands as something of a tribute to my father who passed away in 2009. During our conversation, my mom expressed gratitude to dad for giving her the space to attend the classes. And even though their budget was tight, dad wanted a substantial Nativity just as much as mom. I’m pleased she took that weekly time-out for herself and honored she created meaningful pieces for our family to enjoy still to this day.

I often question what all the stuff is really worth. What’s its meaning and significance? Do stories even accompany all the accumulations? When measuring my Nativity against my mom’s lovingly handcrafted, one-of-a-kind heirloom, ours comes up a bit short. It’s not bad, mind you. In fact ours has an elegant simplicity that fits our family well. But now I’m a bit more motivated to put the Das Schmidt Haus stamp on it as well as many other developing traditions. I’m longing to express my heart in our home just as my mother did when I was growing up. As I actively seek those opportunities, I offer gratitude for the example mom has provided.

Do stories and traditions accompany your Christmas decorations? Or are you, like me, longing to develop some new ones?


Wiseman 2

Shepherd and lambs

Camel Eye

Get Updates

Get the latest posts from The Practicing Catholic, delivered straight to your inbox!


  1. says

    Mark’s grandparents started a tradition that we keep and are passing on to our kids. They always gave a new ornament to each of the kids every Christmas. When I became a part of the family I started to accumulate my own collection of ornaments. We try to get ones for our kids that have a significant meaning from the past year. It is such a great sentimental time putting the ornaments on the tree every year and remembering and talking about who gave it and what the meaning was.

    We were just talking about this with friends and realized how special that tradition really is. We have done it for so long that we figured everyone else did too. Not true it turns out.

    Love the ceramic nativity too. I used to take a weekly ceramics class with my sister back before we had kids. I really hope to do that again someday. Hopefully you will join me!

Join the conversation!