Merry Christmas folks! Today we come to you with a festive themed blog on the Nativity. Yes, the Nativity, the Christian tradition of creating an artistic representation of the birth of Jesus.
Nativity scenes take it inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke's narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed. Matthew's narrative tells of "wise men", or Magi, who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, and indicates that the Magi found Jesus some time later, less than two years after his birth, rather than on the exact day. Matthew's account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke's narrative is silent on the Magi and the star. The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence.
The first nativity scene is thought to have been created by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223 at Greccio, central Italy, in an attempt to place the emphasis of Christmas upon the worship of Christ rather than upon secular materialism and gift giving. The nativity scene created by Francis is described by Saint Bonaventure in his Life of Saint Francis of Assisi written around 1260. Staged in a cave near Greccio, Saint Francis' nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles. Pope Honorius III even gave his blessing to the exhibit.
Such re-enactments became hugely popular and spread throughout Christendom and within a hundred years every church in Italy was expected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime. Eventually, statues replaced human and animal participants, and static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings.
Different traditions of nativity scenes emerged in different countries. A tradition in England involved baking a mince pie in the shape of a manger which would hold the Christ child until dinnertime, when the pie was eaten. When the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations in the 17th century, they also passed specific legislation to outlaw such pies, calling them "Idolaterie in crust". We do not think they would have approved of our “Idolaterie bricks”.
Anyway, we wish you a merry Christmas filled with idolaterie bricks!
These scenes were built by James Pegrum; please be sure to follow and support us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
“Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches” (Aretha Franklin version) might be one of the songs you’ll sing along to at some point over the next month. The song has a traditional German folk background, which is thought to date back to the 16th century. The modern German lyrics were written by Ernst Anschütz in 1824 and refer to a ‘Tannenbaum' or fir tree in English.
Like the song, the tradition in Britain of bringing a living tree into the house (something my cats have now got used too) came from Germany and we can thank the Royals for that. The exact point at which the tradition arrived is however uncertain. During the 16th century German Christians would bring in to their homes and decorate an evergreen tree, whereas in Britain it had been normal for people to bring in a branch of holy or mistletoe, but not a tree. Apparently, Queen Charlotte, who was the wife of George III, used to bring in a yew tree at Christmas, but it is not known of this was the start of the trend.
Things changed when in 1848AD the Illustrated London News reported in detail and included a drawing on its cover of the Royal family around a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle. On Christmas eve, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would bring the tree in themselves and decorate it with candles (sounds a fire hazard to me!) and gingerbread. Once decorated they would bring in the children.
The Royals at this time were trend setters and within 10 years the wealthy were copying them. By the 1850’s it was accepted as normal throughout the nation. Soon other nations around the world were hot on their heels. This was not without its problems, particularly in the absence of today’s electric lights. For example, in 1855 or 56 Caroline Luttrell from Somerset accidentally died after her dress caught fire as she lighting the candles on her tree!
Today Christmas trees are common in people’s homes throughout Britain and thankfully there are safer decorative options than candles! Our decorations have also expanded to include many wonderful colourful items and maybe a Lego train for the kids ...or AFOLS!
These scenes were built by James Pegrum; find out more by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Happy Christmas! While today is best remembered for the birth of Jesus Christ, and my is this a good celebration, today we would also like to commemorate a lesser known contributor to the festivities! No Christmas dinner is complete without the pulling of crackers (or bon-bon as it's known in Australia - you weirdos!), invented 1847AD.
For this we can thank their inventor - Thomas Smith - who had developed the bon-bon sweet, sold in a twist of paper. In the 1840s the sweets went through slumping sales, so Smith explored a few new promotional ideas. His first was similar to fortune cookies, where he inserted a 'love message' into the wrapper. Later he added the 'crackle' feature after hearing his log fire crackle. To include the banger mechanism he had to enlarge the sweet wrapper. The sweet was later dropped and swapped by a trinket; for example fans, jewelry, and other substantial items. In 1906 Thomas Smith's Crackers were granted their first Royal Warrant in 1906 and the rest, as they say, is history!
These scenes were built by James Pegrum becasue its Christmas. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see all of our models first
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On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past