Nativity in miniature – Epiphany

It’s long been put to bed in many households, but Christmas is finally over here in Portugal on 6th January, the Day of Kings, or ‘Dia de Reis’. I reluctantly take down my tree and dismantle the crib in the fireplace for another year, and remind myself of the connection to the kings. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, and the day when we celebrate the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem, bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. Traditionally in Portugal it’s a day for families to eat together after work, and perhaps share small gifts. It’s almost certain that ‘Bolo Rei’ will make an appearance. This cake is in the shape of a crown, decorated with candied peel ‘jewels’ and containing a bean. If you’re the lucky person with the bean in your portion, it’s your turn to buy the cake next year.

Nice traditions, aren’t they? And so I’m taking you back to a very traditional village, here in the Algarve. You might remember the decorations in the streets of joyful Santa Rita? We returned a day or two later to visit their display of Nativity scenes.

Inside the simple community centre we were greeted warmly, then left to look around. Russian dolls, amazingly intricate arrangements of abalone and finely worked and sculpted shells, lovingly constructed tableaux and displays carved from wood, all sat side by side on table tops and boxes. Some of the figures were tiny, some taller. Some serious, some smiling. Some were woven from rafia, wrapped around with linen cloaks. Some inhabited a book, or a log of wood. Astoundingly, some were even made of paper, folded and coiled, round and round. There seemed no end to the ingenuity in telling the Christmas story.

The notice explained the ancient tradition of building a small altar in the home for baby Jesus, decorated with oranges and other fruits, and offerings of bread for the prosperity of the family. Outside again, we paused to admire the village one last time.

If it wasn’t such a long walk to the sea, I could live there! Happy Epiphany, everybody!

Some reminders of Christmas past :

Castro Marim

Vila Real de S. Antonio – K is for Kings

Six Word Saturday

75 thoughts on “Nativity in miniature – Epiphany

  1. Hi restless jo
    this was a treat for a few reasons – first – your photos are so informal yet also professional feeling, which is enjoyable
    second, I am not at all ready to let Christmas end this year (as opposed to other years when I am over it in 12/26 – hahah – but this year I am easing ut and even had a few Christmas songs on earlier today
    — and third, the art! there was so much creativity in the decor and painting – and the fence posts were a simple fav

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    • It’s a lovely village, full of surprises, Rupali. Thank you – I noticed you have a walk for me. Not sure if I’m posting a walk tomorrow. The intention is fortnightly but I’ll come and visit when I put my laptop on after supper πŸ€—πŸ’•

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  2. Pingback: The Giant Sticky Bun – Touring My Backyard

  3. It is so nice to see Christmas through the eyes of others Jo, especially when so much loving care is put into the celebration. The manger was always a big part of our Christmas tradition growing up, which in hindsight makes me happy to know we were raised to know what wy!as REALLY important about the event. That said, we definitely had Santa too LOL. Thanks for sharing these heartfelt offerings. I loved the painted fence especially.

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  4. Jo, what a wonderful tradition and these Nativity are fabulous and incredibly inventive. I was trying to pick a favourite but gave up, instead lapping up the colours and creativity. It’s interesting you mentioned the oranges and other fruits; one Swedish tradition is to hang oranges decorated with cloves in the house. We did this as usual this year whilst my son’s girlfriend looked on with bemusement!

    Wishing you a lovely weekend, my friend! xx

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    • Old traditions seem to have largely died out in the UK, Annika. On New Year’s Eve I was quite touched when our neighbour, of Scottish origin, went out to be our ‘first foot’ and came back with a piece of charcoal, a chunk of bread and a silver fifty pence piece. I had almost forgotten that had been commonplace when we lived in the north east.
      It was a beautiful afternoon, hon, and we walked too far after lunch so we are sitting yawning now. Maybe a lazy day tomorrow!

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  5. How lovely to return to Santa Rita – such a fabulous collection of nativity scenes! I love them all! but I am particularly taken by the scene painted on the piece of fencing (?) – so clever!

    When we celebrate Christmas in London, we always get a Galette des Rois – very similar to the Bolo Rei. Except ours from Pauls (the Bakery) had specially made clay tokens (in the shape of little baked goods … croissant, baguette, etc with the year imprinted on it). Older Child collected them religiously for a time; not so interested in the cake itself.

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  6. I love nativity scenes such as these. We’ve gone for many years to the National Cathedral in Washington to see creches from all over the world, but sadly we didn’t make it this season. At least I got to experience them through your post! πŸ™‚

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  7. What a plethora of delightful creations, Jo! Thanks so much for sharing them. I’m staring to think about taking down my Christmas decorations too but it’s so much less fun than putting them up. 😦

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  8. It is a lovely tradition and I enjoy the displays and individual alters. I am impressed with the variety. Our local bakeries sell the special cakes, and I just watched a segment on television showing how to make them with the special “prize” inside. I really enjoyed your photos, Jo.

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    • Thanks, Debbie. It was a very quiet Epiphany here today. Normally they would be singing charolas in town but we are still under a few restrictions until 9th January, so they were replaced with piped music. Still rather nice!

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  9. Those are just amazing Jo. What a beautiful tradition. The imagination and creativity of people never ceases to amaze me. How are you getting on with the language? Could you read that poster?

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    • I read much better than I can speak, Pauline. Seeing it written makes much more sense to my brain than the spoken word, unfortunately. But I keep trying πŸ€£πŸ’• I seldom get further than pleasantries. But I can still appreciate beauty.

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  10. What an amazingly creative lot of people live in that village. And such variety in the crib scenes, such ingenuity and resourcefulness in the use of local materials as well. I’m so glad you returned to get these pictures, they are worth bringing out again next year!

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  11. Happy Epiphany, Jo! Since today is my grandma’s birthday, we always celebrated this on this day and nothing else. Only here in Italy I have learned of this holiday. Do you also have an old woman Befana who brings presents? Candy if you were good, coal if you were bad, both inside the socks?

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  12. I love those nativity scenes, Jo. We have a display of nativity scenes here every year in the family center of the Holy Ghost Lutheran Church [https://wp.me/p4uPk8-1fd].

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  13. How charming – and varied these are. A lovely tradition which we can all enjoy, whatever our faith or lack thereof. So sorry your son’s had bad news (I’ve been earwigging on your comments).

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    • Yes, multi-denominational, Margaret. It’s been quite a day! Sleepless night over the mortgage- withdrawn because it’s a flat roof art deco style, even though it was recently replaced, with a 25 year guarantee- much phoning and pleading because it will be open to offers again from this weekend if they can’t proceed. On standby for news all day in case instant money was needed. Think they have secured a mortgage. And finally got my engagement ring back from the jewellers. Looks brand new but I flinched when I got the price! Good job I’m worth it- ha! ha!

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  14. I just finished taking down our tree and other decorations so this is a really apposite post πŸ™‚ I assume these are all the work of the villagers? They’re so clever! I especially like the little log scene, while the simplicity of the raffia ones is very appealing. Thanks for sharing them!

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    • They all had labels on, Sarah, but I was so busy trying to avoid these in the photos that I’ve forgotten most of the details. Some were donated or on loan from local collectors. I loved the ingenuity of them. And yes, my place is looking bare now, too!

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  15. Such wonderful traditions and beautiful photos, Jo πŸ™‚ Yes, Christmas is over and in Ireland as of today, kids are already back to school. Decorations are one of the best parts of Christmas, and I am very reluctant to take them down – I must find creative ways to redecorate my house now that the holiday is over. Cheers to health, happiness, and prosperity in 2022! Aiva πŸ™‚ xx

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    • Thanks darlin! We had a bit of a scare this morning. Our son has been desperate to buy a house for ages. He had an offer accepted on New Year’s Eve and we were thrilled but then the mortgage company let them down. Thankfully we have just received good news. You will go on worrying about your daughter for many years to come, Aiva πŸ€—πŸ’•πŸ’•

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