The term on Wikopedia (where else?) for the dramatic and complex nativity scenes in Portugal is called Frioes-Presipio. I never heard that: for me it was always the home for 'Minin Jesu'. -Anyone want to help me with that, for surely I did not spell it right. I could not find the right translation for my memories. It just lives in my thoughts.
Here is what I do know and remember. These nativity scenes , religious works of art, took center stage rather than Santa Claus in our homes. Santa surely did have his place, of course, as he was rooted in a Christian tradition. Basket laden mothers, aunts and grandmothers headed to field and "forest" around this time to find mosses, pines branches, holly leaves and berries and whatever else caught their creative and practiced eyes. We often went with them, carrying baskets and branches and perhaps even making our own discoveries. It was quiet, peaceful, and if there was snow it just lent the perfect air to the moment. No other noise than the wind in the trees and bushes and birdsong. The sound of our boots on frozen grasses and moss.
A few weeks before, a handful of wheat grass seeds were planted in a small cup in readiness for its place in the creche symbolizing the Child as Food for the soul and the world in Communion. Margaret Walker who grew up in the Block in the Village says it was called thicue (phonetic) and took about three weeks to grow after planting it in containers in the house.
While the grasses grew, mosses were kept in a damp place until all was ready. When the moment came, Christmas music was put on to put us all in the mood. The scenes that my mother and my Aunt Eleanor built often took up a whole wall or wall and a half in a room. Each year, my mother would add a new little figure: it made it easy for us to buy her presents as they usually went to this annual project. I think St. Francis was her inspiration as these little figures often were tiny glass animals, often mother and father and offspring. Little fish and ducks added to the ponds she created. Lakes were created with mirrors, hills with boxes and little tables stacked high for drama, often covered with material and then with mosses and stones.
Today I am an artist, following in her creative footsteps...all her daughters are creative, each in their own ways, most especially at Christmas. When I set up my little scene I always get emotional as the memories engulf me, sweet tho they may be, She is not here, but she is probably directing St. Francis as to his latest creation. Sadly, I have only one photo from her sets and this is it. The hardest task was to keep the cat out of sleeping in it, but little hands were invited to touch and move things around. As a small child I have a vague memory of going around in the evening with Mrs. Carvalho, our Church organist and other children, some with instruments, to sing carols in lullaby to the Baby Jesus in homes around the Village.
Creche by Angi Souza in her later years.
Adoration of the Magi this was not...but too
comfy for a kitty to resist
That year, Mom's scene wove all around her grandsons.
Incredibly, adding to her creative skills such as photography, my mother began to do
wood carving. Her pieces are precious momentos on the hearths of all of our homes.
This is a part of my creche this year, and as each year, this little dog she carved
sits with pride before the Child. His tail is high and I decorate it with a few stars, he
almost has a smile to match. One of my paintings provides a backdrop.
Do you hear what I hear ?