Friday, December 9, 2011

Is That a Mariachi Band by the Manger?

When you come to South Coast Repertory to see A Christmas Carol this month, take a few extra moments to check out the nacimiento, or nativity scene, in the lobby. The six-foot homage to holiday cheer is the work of Amigas de la Cultura, a trio of current and retired school teachers dedicated to educating the community about Hispanic cultures and peoples. The ladies have been putting together displays in SCR's lobby every Christmas for more than 15 years.

Traditionally, a Mexican family sets out their nacimiento on December 16, the first day of Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration of the birth of Christ. Though each display is centered around a classic nativity scene, individual families may contribute personal touches, the way many American families collect Christmas ornaments for their tree. As collections grow, nacimientos can take over entire rooms! The size and scale of the objects is irrelevant, adding a lighthearted touch to the scene.

 These seemingly incongruous add-ins often have symbolic meaning. In SCR's nacimiento look for devils, who represent pranksters trying to prevent pilgrims from getting to Bethlehem, and a hermit, standing alone in his cave, whose job it is to thwart the pranksters' efforts. Cartoon characters such as Snow White, Elmo and Daffy Duck are placed in the scene to capture little ones' attention, while diverse characters such as a tortilla maker, a mariachi band and citizens in an Alpine village show that all are welcome at the birth of Jesus.

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