We were in Assisi for a few days and we went to the living manger scene (I’m writing a poem about this, so stay tuned), which is a kind of reenactment of the night Jesus was (supposedly) born in a stall near Bethlehem. At least that’s what happened in the play. I’d have to go and check my NT for the details, assuming they are the same in all four gospels. At the end of the imaginative scenery – complete with faux-synagoge and dress-up rabbi, a rare sight in Umbria – there is the family portrait, sitting patiently bathed in firelight from the burning oildrums (all of this took place out in the cold, a realistic touch). Yosef, Miriam, and little plastic baby Jesus. In this manger scene, most curiously, Jesus had a sister. She looked to be about six or seven, and she was real flesh and blood and DNA. And a hell of a lot more convincing than baby Yehoshua! What she was doing there, assuming the (dubious) virginity of Miriam, is anyone’s guess. But it occurred to me that this is the reason they sell those little baby dolls in religious shops, along with shepherd’s gear and staffs aplenty. It’s a costume party every Christmas.
Afterthought: it occurs to me that perhaps they use a plastic doll for Jesus to accentuate that he was not born of dirty sexual intercourse between two humans. Apparently they prefer a supernatural kind of rape, which is considered holy. But still, plastic is so cheesy don’t you think?