Nativity Scenes: Where Did They All Go?

Public nativity scenes are nowhere in the UK
The answer is. They must all be in Churches. 

Merry Christmas, by the way. I can say that to you because I'm not in the US House of Representatives and you are not my constituents.

Fr Z today posts on The Catholic League's Nativity scene in New York City. It is sad that we are at a stage in history in which, here in the West, Catholic organisations have to fight tooth and nail to remind New Yorkers of the 'reason for the season'.

A few years ago, I managed to obtain a Nativity scene in Brighton from a Wesley Owen Bookshop which has since closed down. It was £35 and I no longer have it. This year, it hasn't happened. As far as I know, nowhere in Brighton sold them over the Christmas period. I think I saw a really small shoddy one made of wool in a charity shop window, but I'm not sure that was even for sale.

Aside from St Bernadette's Bookshop, in Kemptown, which sadly now only opens one day a week due to the poor health of the owner, there is no Christian bookshop either Catholic or otherwise in Brighton.

That's perhaps not surprising, because after all, it is Brighton and Hove, the cosmopolitan, multicultural city by the sea where every message is welcome but for the message of Christ. If there were a Christian, or even better, Catholic, bookshop in Brighton, I'm not sure how much time I would spend milling around it, though, come to think of it, it would be nice to be able to browse around a Brighton CTS store or St Paul's Multimedia store. That said, it would have been really nice to have purchased a Nativity scene for my place this year. It is kind of sad that ordinary gift shops do not think of selling Nativity scenes in this country. After all, they might actually sell quite well, what with Christmas being a celebration of the Birth of Our Lord.  Should we really, in 21st century Britain, have to order Nativity scenes online at Christmas if we want one for our homes or make an excursion to London?

It is quite incredible that today the only Nativity scenes in the UK are most likely solely to be found in Churches. Public Nativity scenes, in town and city centres seem also to be a thing of the distant past in this country. There must have been a time, and it cannot have been that long ago, when town centres had a Nativity scene. The Nativity of Our Lord has been airbrushed from Christmas in these isles, so much so that you'll only see a scene of the Nativity in Churches. No longer are the scenes available in your local store. No longer are they made for town or city centres.

It is, as the picture above suggests, a different story in parts of Eastern Europe, such as Poland and Lithuania. Apparently, you can't move for Nativity scenes in those countries. Maybe I'm just being grumpy, but I can't help thinking that the severance of Christ from Christmas leaves the country all the poorer, spiritually, obviously, but also culturally. There is a bit of a cavernous void in the secularisation of Britain.  What could possibly be so offensive about a Virgin, a Child, St Joseph and some animals in a stable? On the way to Church, there is a whole shop entitled 'Private Shop' dedicated to pornographic sex. Between that and a local grocers is another pornographic sex shop called 'Taboo' selling only sex toys and porn (yes, that's right - only sex toys and porn!). Yet, strangely, you can't find a Nativity scene in this town for love nor money.


In the 20-something Christmas's I've been around for I've never once seen nor heard of outside Nativity scenes :(
blondpidge said…
You know there is Books Alive on Elm Grove? It's a Christian bookshop but maybe it doesn't count being Hove?

My children were given a fabulous Grace cube from there. It's a die but with different mealtime prayers on each face. At mealtimes the younger one rolls it and the other one says the prayer!

It's run by an Evangelical but they order in Catholic publications as required. Just a thought.
Fr PF said…
Dear Lawrence
You will be happy to know that there is still a Nativity Scene at George Square in Glasgow. Happy Christmas.
Mac McLernon said…
There's a proper Nativity Crib in Bexleyheath shopping centre, organised by "Chuches Together in Sidcup" - it was quite a good one...
lms rep said…
Here in the Leeds Diocese a crib scene in one of our churchyards was mutilated in a dreadful way a couple of years ago.
P Standforth said…
In our town in Northern England at least three shops have displayed a nativity scene in their display windows, two on the main street.
Anonymous said…
Most of the major cities in Scotland have large Nativity scenes and I know of a large chain of garden centres that have them on display and for sale up here. All is not lost!
Joseph Shaw said…
I'm not sure there's a tradition of public Nativity scenes in England. It's something you find in Catholic countries. The Prots didn't approve, historically, of such representations.

Glad to hear there's one in Glasgow!
Cettis Warbler said…
I've seen lots for sale this year, in fact more than I remember, so maybe it's just Brighton. In my town centre (in Oxfordshire)people put them in their windows for passers by to see. Don't despair!
Andrew L said…
There's usually an outside Nativity scene, which generally stays there all the way through till Candlemas, in a courtyard outside an Italian restaurant on the corner of Canewdon Road and Hamlet Court Road in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, most years.

I'm hard pressed to think of any others, in England, at least.