Something about the resin Nativity sets at Wal-Mart just looks wrong to me. Okay, so they're more durable than porcelain - but, well, they have that slightly misshapen look, like dollar-store figurines. And there's that whole overly commercial feeling...
On a side note, I am also creeped out by talking dolls. I saw one a few days ago labeled "newborn" that when you pressed its stomach, said "I wuv you!" Hmmm.... I have seen many a newborn baby, personally raised one to toddlerhood, and in my experience, newborns DON'T TALK. "Exorcist to Aisle 324 please..."
So, somehow, we made it five years of marriage without a Nativity set (manger scene, creche, whatever your term is). We have been putting out the clay Holy Family my husband made in sixth grade. We have a child now, it's time to get a set that has facial features. So, I headed to Wal-Mart with the intent of buying a full set, animals and all, to be our family set.
I thought I got lucky. I found a set that lacked only a camel, was porcelain but didn't look TOO fragile, and fit my small budget. I got it home, and one of the Wise Men was already broken, in the package. I didn't want to take it back - the Wise Man could be fixed, and besides if I took it back, they'd pitch the whole set. But then Kittyboy found the sheep and the donkey, and we realized as they all rubbed against each other being cradled in his arms, that they sounded VERY delicate. And looking again at the cross section of broken Wise Man, the porcelain is very thin. This was a Very Bad Idea. Just falling from the less-than-2-foot height of his arms, those animals could very easily be history.
So now we have a set that has to be out of reach, which makes no one happy - not Kittyboy who wants to hug and kiss and examine the people and animals, and not us, because shelf space was already at a premium in our house. And I WANT a set that can be under the tree and can be loved and examined (with careful supervision) by Kittyboy on the first Christmas where he's been aware of what's going on. It doesn't have to be plastic - but it should be more durable than bone china.
Enter eBay - the world's garage sale.
This is when I discovered how incredibly picky I am about Nativity scenes. I don't like the ones that are kids dressed up in costume - that's just weird somehow. And let's not even mention the Precious Moments ones (shudder). I also don't like the ones that look obviously European. The manger should look more like a feed trough than a bassinet. And I don't understand why you would have all the figures glued in place. A LOT of the sets I looked at, which were perfectly lovely otherwise, were all glued in place. I guess that does keep them from being played with, but it also discourages the kind of creativity that, in my family at least, was always part of Christmas. Our Wise Men, for example, actually spent the time from the beginning of Advent to Epiphany (January 6th) "journeying" through the house. After all, it takes a while to get from Persia to Bethlehem by camel (FYI, it also takes a really long time to get all the way from the attic downstairs to the Christmas tree when you're frozen in a kneeling position and your camel can't stand up - you have to hop, which is quite tiring). The Baby Jesus should be able to be removed from the manger, because He's not there until Christmas (not born yet, silly!). And in an interesting twist, in OUR house, we children would hide Jesus somewhere and Santa would find Him and put Him in the manger after delivering gifts - a reminder of what the real "Gift" was.
I am soooo picky. But I did, at long last, find a set I liked. Already well-loved, which is a plus, and plaster, which while it is breakable, is sturdier than porcelain. It even comes with an angel holding a banner that says "Gloria". The ONLY drawback is that Jesus is firmly stuck in the manger, but I'm willing to forego that part, because no one else is glued down or to anything. And with Kittyboy's affinity for all things doll-like, it may be just as well that Jesus can't be carried off in an affectionate little fist to be lost who-knows-where.
Perusing Wal-Mart's Christmas section (or possessed-doll section) - great way to bring on an un-Christmasy holiday funk. Finding the perfect estate-sale heirloom to adopt - great way to feel better.