American Christians are shocked that Ferrigno, the family-owned and operated business which is known worldwide for its elaborate creche scenes, has added a new character to its Nativity figures for 2012: a statue of President Barack Obama wearing a gold crown.
Marco Ferrigno is a descendant of the company’s founder Giussepe Ferrigno, who introduced the elaborate Nativity sets in Naples, Italy, in 1836. Marco explained on November 7 that
“Every time a major event occurs we create a new figurine, and today after Obama’s victory, we have made a new figurine of Obama and will put him in our ideal Nativity scene.”
The Origin of the Christmas Creche
In 1228 in Greccio, Italy, a monk named Francis devised a plan to encourage Christians in that community to grow in piety, emphasizing the spiritual aspects of the Christmas season (worship of Christ) rather than the material (such as exchanging gifts). In a cave near the town, located north of Rome, Francis arranged a “living Nativity”—a pantomime with humans and animals cast in the key roles of the Holy Family, the shepherds, the Magi and others in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth.
St. Francis of Assisi’s reenactment of the Biblical story was popular with the people, and Pope Honorius III blessed the display.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Christmas Nativity display—called a presepe in Italy—remained a favorite Christmas tradition. Since the Ferrigno craftsmen began carving their luxurious decorations in 1836, the company’s models have commanded a high price from serious collectors. Ferrigno’s carvings are unique, with terra cotta heads embedded with glass eyes, and hand-stitched clothing in expensive fabrics. Each individual piece is signed by the artist.
Collectors may begin with a “starter Nativity” consisting of the Holy Family, then through the years add shepherds, the Magi with their camels, townspeople, a visiting circus, and various political figures. This year, apparently, Obama is a popular figure among Italian collectors.
There’s something to be said for that!