Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Pleasures

The thing I like best about Christmas is getting out the cribs. I have one rather bashed one that my parents bought before I was born, when they lived in Vienna. It is pretty, but fairly standard. My favourite is the one we got about ten years ago in Budapest from a wood carver who had set up a stall in a Christmas market. Part of its appeal is the contrast between its quite rough carving and the very finely detailed painting of the figures, but what I really love is the way it has been turned into a specifically Hungarian nativity scene. The kings have fine Magyar moustaches:

and the shepherds are clearly straight off the Great Plain:

and they even have a Hungarian puli with them:

just like the one in this picture:

What is more, as well as Joseph and Mary, the group includes a figure that I have never seen in a nativity scene before. She is what I think the Hungarians would call a néni or possibly a nagynéni, an indispensable grandmother figure or universal aunt. Here she is on her own:

and, if you look carefully, you can see her up the back beside Mary, ready to exert her iron will if anyone steps out of line:

 My favourite character though is the cow. I aim to emulate her look of benign (possibly faintly idiotic) goodwill throughout the coming year:


  1. We don't do a nativity scene, but my parents did and I used to love it. Your Hungarian one is gorgeous. I do like the cultural reflection in the universal aunt.

    Oh, and good luck with your cow emulation ... minus the idiocy of course.

  2. The idiocy was the one aspect I felt I had really mastered.