One of the Christmas traditions that Marlon and I both grew up with was the belen, or Nativity scene. It was easy for us to agree on having a belen in our home during the holidays—what wasn’t easy was finding one that we both liked. Most of the Nativity sets we saw (mostly in the Philippines and Germany) were either too old-fashioned or elaborate for our tastes.
Well, after nearly five years, the search is over! We finally found our family belen last weekend at the Aachen Christmas market.
I was browsing with my friend Leslie in a store called Käthe Wohlfahrt, which sells traditional German Christmas ornaments. As soon as I saw this hand-carved wooden belen, I fell in love. Clean, simple, no fuss—just the way I wanted it. I brought Marlon back with me to see it, and he was equally charmed.
The small size is perfect for apartment dwellers like us. Though the figures are tiny (no taller than my pinkie), they’re all mounted on one piece of wood, making them less likely to be misplaced. They have a young, Playmobil kind of feel that I like… suited to the kids that (I think) Marlon and I still are in many ways. Plus, it fits this year’s minimalist theme at home, too.
Part of what made our belen search difficult was my tendency to be particular about faces and expressions. These ones, I like. They’re fairly neutral without being dead, and cute without being cheesy.
This scene doesn’t include the Three Wise Men, but that isn’t a huge deal. The shepherds and angels were the first on the scene anyway. Besides, I couldn’t resist these tiny adorable sheep!
Our little family is still figuring out and making up its Christmas traditions, but I’m happy that this year, another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place with a quiet click.
Did you grow up with a Nativity scene at home, or do you have one now? I’d love to hear about it!