Rather than purchasing a ready-made Christmas Creche or Nativity Scene, many people want to build their own. I am not crafty at all, so I would find building my own to be particularly daunting, but there are many people who are very good at making these kinds of things, and I am always envious of their talent. Even if you cannot build the figurines, you can still build your own stable. Some purchased Nativity sets consist only of the figurines and have no stable at all.
So what ideas go into making your own Nativity stable:
Why do you need a stable?
The stable in a Nativity scene is not absolutely essential. Some scholars suggest that the stable was a cave or was not a stable at all. This version looks at the way houses in Palestine are actually built and supposes that Jesus was born in a house. You can read more here if you are interested in the theology of the Nativity.
So if Jesus was actually born in a house, there is no need for a stable.
However, the stable is ingrained in our cultural heritage so we will see anything else as not being authentic for us. By the way, the animals would still have been present, and isn’t that really all that matters? The Palestinians of Jesus’ day would have kept their animals with them in the house. Wouldn’t you just love cleaning up after that?!
Artistically, or theatrically, the stable provides a stage or backdrop for the birth of Jesus. In pictures, it provides the frame around the scene and helps to focus the action on the Holy Family, particularly on the baby Jesus who is, after all, the star of the show, and the “reason for the season”.
Indoor versus Outdoor
Outdoors: If your Nativity scene is outdoors, you can accommodate larger figures than if it were indoors (duh, Captain Obvious here), but your choice of materials will require that you consider how long you will keep your Nativity scene up, the weather at your location, and other risks for your area such as traffic and people who like to get into mischief with other people’s Nativity scenes.
The design is very straightforward. It is essentially a three-sided shed. The roof should slant towards the rear. In the simplest designs. If you want to get more elaborate, you can pitch the roof towards the sides. The walls can be wood slats, planks, plywood, whatever you like and whatever is sturdy enough to stand up to the great outdoors. The floor should provide stability for the whole structure. All the figures do not have to fit inside of the stable, it is there to provide a stage or backdrop for the Holy Family and the story of the Nativity.
Indoors: There are a few more options for making a Nativity stable indoors. It is usually table-top size, but it can be a bit larger. The process is the same, but on a smaller scale. Again, the roof should slant to the rear. The structure only needs to be sturdy enough to stand up to children, cats, dogs, parakeets, and the odd hamster. The figures inside the stable are smaller. If they get knocked off the table, they are easily found by walking barefoot in the dark.
Materials and Methods
Outdoors: The materials you can use for building your Nativity Stable are as varied as your ideas for it. If you want to build a Nativity stable that will last for a while, you should use a quality wood for the structure. If this is something that you don’t mind replacing each year, then you can build it with pretty much anything that will last a few days to a few weeks. Palm fronds are a good choice if you have those available locally. You might even consider using it as an excuse to hold a barn raising and invite your friends and family over to help you build and decorate your Nativity stable. If you have children, this is a good opportunity to show them how to use tools safely.
Indoors: For building your Nativity stable indoors, you can gather children, including smaller children to build their own Nativity stables. You can use cardboard, tissue paper, or the perennial favorite of indoors crafts — Popsicle sticks. Nowadays, you don’t have to eat the Popsicle first to get your sticks (but that was the fun way). This is the way to teach your children how to build, whether to have gaps or no gaps in the side “planks” in your stable. The result is a Nativity stable that your children will love and cherish because they built it themselves.
Decoration of your Nativity Stable
This is where the fun and creativity comes in. For your outside stable, you can paint it or leave it rough-hewn. You can add straw to the floor and the roof. Don’t forget to add the star!! You can add a tree-topper star that lights up for a special effect.
With the children decorating the indoor stable, you can let them release their inner Rembrandt’s. The creativity of a child will amaze you. Ask them the reasons they choose the colors they do. Have glitter available, and cotton balls, and sparkly pipe cleaners. The more the merrier. You’ll have more fun that you can imagine.
Making your own Nativity Stable is a way to bring your family and friends together in an activity that allows everyone to display their creativity and produce their own works of art. Jesus came to bring people together and making your own version of the Nativity Stable is one way to do just that.