Nativity Scene Details

Over several days following a recent snowfall I began piling up snow for a manger scene. I was going to put animals, wisemen and shepherds around the manger and had made some smaller snow piles where the smaller figures might be positioned.

I was following the weather reports leading up to making my nativity scene and I was planning for one day of warm weather. I got three instead. On Friday the day before Christmas Eve I piled up snow for an angle which would stand on the back of the stable. Because I was able to find snow that was warm and sticky on the top of the ground snow I was able to scrape it off and build my angel in a couple of hours. On this first day of the melt the lower layers of snow on the gound were not yet sticky. I was able to add wings and sculpt the head. I tried to sculpt the face from the side but it looked like something out of a Picasso painting so I had to rest a step ladder on the roof of the stable and sculpt the face straight on so that I could give it the symmetry people expect of angels.

I then started carving the figures of Mary Joseph and the baby Jesus. The snow in the manger's interior was still cold and not sticky. Once I had the figures roughly carved I dug out the manger out behind them creating a large vacant space. This hollowing out heightened the figures by putting the space behind them in shadow                                    . Unfortunately, the warm weather would continue for two more days. By the next morning the roof of the stable had slowly sunk about a foot and a half which made it look as though it was resting on Mary and Joseph.

I had to spend the next day, Christmas Eve, rebuilding the manger and touching up the angel's face which looked a bit like the Phantom of the Opera's face. By now the heat had made all the snow on the ground sticky so finding snow to repair the manger was not difficult. After spending several hours rebuilding the manger and the holy family I only had about an hour to finish off the stable animals before hurrying off to sing with the choir in an early Christmas service at our church.  I didn't have enough snow for any camels or people but I did have one lump big enough for an ox and four sheep. I had enough time to do justice to the ox but the sheep only got about five minutes each. It shows. 

I complained to Claudia that I didn't have camels but she explained that by Christmas Eve the wisemen hadn't arrived and the angel was only just calling the shepherds which explained their absence. That made sense. It also reminded me that the three wisemen had actually come to our house a couple years earlier. Perhaps they had read the stars wrong that year. Even so I was sure that they would eventually show up.

That evening Claudia had me put votive candles on our steps and a large white candle at the foot of the cradle. They kept burning until morning. I took a picture the following day in bright sun after another twelve hours of evening melt. By noon the angel's head had fallen off taking an arm with it.