NOTE: this is the 2013 list. For the 2016 update, with 70 nativities, click here!
each year i’ve posted an expanding list of “the worst nativity sets.” but i have to be honest with you and write that i can’t really label all of these “worst” anymore. for starters, i’ve grown fond of some of them over time. then, as the list has grown, i’ve stumbled on some that i think are absolutely brilliant in one way or another. so there’s no question about it: some are horrible and tacky. some are weird and freakish. some are merely meh. and some, well, rock.
but you’ll have to be the judge, i suppose.
i have one primary rule for inclusion (which i break a couple times because i can’t help myself): i only include nativities that were made as nativities. in other words, i haven’t included photos of the dozens of lego nativities, superhero nativities, star wars figurines nativities, barbie doll nativities, coke can nativities, alcohol bottle nativities, and others i’ve received. however, alert reader “joan from the detroit ‘burbs” pointed me to a website with these kinds of nativities, and i just have to include one or two of them, because they made me laugh out loud (proving that i cannot effectively draw the line).
and a quick word to my christian brothers and sisters (i am one of you!): i believe that the One who created laughter and humor and mouths that involuntarily curl into a smile loves laughter. i don’t believe this list detracts from what i believe to be one of the most significant moments in human history, when God became a human. if anything, this is a roundabout way of drawing attention to Emmanuel, God with us (albeit, in a strange way!).
enough pre-amble. let’s get to it! merry christmas all, and enjoy or be horrified by this weird collection of nativity oddness.
the kitty cat nativity. makes me want to cough up a hairball.
the nativity kitchen timer (ding-ding! baby jesus is born!):
yeah, the cat nativity is probably worse. but these dogs ain’t much better…
technically, not a nativity. but it’s a christmas lawn ornament, showing (can you believe it?) the flogging of jesus on the way to the cross. there’s some christmas cheer for your neighborhood!
also not technically a nativity; just a horribly cheesy christian kitschmas decoration: the jesus tree topper. dude, that robe is not working for you. and stop using that flat-iron on your hair.
back to actual nativity sets. this one is a craft kit, using marshmallows to make a s’mores nativity. yum.
this isn’t a whole nativity set, but there are other pieces available. this mouse drummer boy is just about as confusing as a bit of kitschmas junk can get.
when searching for tasteless nativity sets online, it doesn’t take long for one to stumble onto multiple versions of bears…
this rubber duckie nativity has to be right up there in the “worst” section of cheesy nativity sets…
lotsa santa nativity sets and pieces out there, but this one is a bit disorienting. is the holy family IN santa’s bag? or does santa have an nice applique of the holy family on his bag of gifts? and, what can the letters in santa be re-arranged to spell?
if cats, dogs, and teddy bears weren’t enough, how ’bout penguins!?
sure. snowmen. shouldn’t be a surprise.
ah, the veggie nativity. i debated on this one, because my kids loved veggie tales back in the day. but the baby carrot pushed me over the edge into including it.
this nativity — well, i just don’t even know how to describe it. clowns? modern art? the baby jesus seriously looks like something out of a circus or a john waters movie.
oh, the animals. i suppose, while i think the dog nativity and cat nativity are somehow explainable as something people WAY too “into” those particular animals might display, this chicken nativity is just a bit beyond my comprehension as a purchasable — nay, displayable — holiday trinket.
you know those people who have those geese on their porch? yeah, them. and they put a cute little goosey costume on their porch-goose to mark every season? yeah, those people. this costume set is made for those people. or, to clarify, for those who actually have TWO of those geese already. sigh. i’m guessing the rubber ducky baby is “not supplied” (not to mention zoologically impossible).
what better expresses the spirit of the incarnation than owls? i found these at this cavalcade of nativities, where the comment was: whoooo is the son of god? whooooo?
yes, i give you, the naked troll doll nativity. eesh. feh.
the irish nativity, where the 3 irish wise guys have clover, gold and guinness:
the most viral nativity from previous years… the meat nativity (yes, bacon and sausage):
and, why not the butter nativity:
the cupcake topper nativity. holy and yummy all at once!
the pig nativity. oink-vey: certainly not kosher…
the mary-and-josesph-as-kids nativity. this one is mildly disturbing, particularly in light of rampant infantalization of teenagers in our culture and the dropping age in puberty (though i’m sure that’s not what the creators of this had in mind).
in keeping with our current cultural fascination with all things zombie, i give you the etsy craftiness of: the zombie nativity. full disclosure: after this collection blew up online two years ago, my business partner, adam mclane, bought me this one as a christmas gift. it now sits proudly in my home. and my interactions with the creators were just lovely (they “get it”).
the nativity carved out of spam! (thanks, adam!)
the shotgun shell nativity. what a blast (get it!?). perfect for your redneck christmas, i suppose.
the peg doll nativity. other than collecting some larger figures and one smaller one, and telling me it’s a nativity, this one doesn’t exactly scream “manger”.
the mice nativity. say goodbye to the cookies you left out for santa.
um, the official description is “folk nativity“. but i’m pretty sure that’s a small 7 eleven frozen burrito with a face on it, along with two new age tree fairies, or something (btw: i had interaction with the creators of this gem last year, and they’re good people).
from a nice reader in the UK (thanks, mary!) who bothered to email this pic…
the soggy jesus nativity. i’m sure there are plenty of nativities in a snow globe, were all three (or more) characters are IN the globe. but this freakish thing just has jesus in there, with mary and joe staring at their baby-in-a-fishbowl. too weird and hilarious.
honestly, this one — the mexican mermaid family nativity — is some pretty beautiful art work, even if it is fairly strange. thanks to karen on flickr for allowing me to post this one.
and what i can only call the ‘minimalist nativity’. props to some kindergarten art class for this one, or some very lazy community college art student.
as you might imagine, this annual list has generated hundreds of additional nativity suggestions, both in blog comments, and via email. many i’d seen before. many were just ok. some were truly inspiring. and most of ’em violate my “must be made as a nativity, not just pulled together into a nativity” rule. this one breaks that rule, but it’s so whip-smart. i just had to post for its creativity. sent to me by David Lober, the ‘arranger’ and photographer. the humor takes a few seconds to start setting in…
yeah, this one probably crosses some line. sent to me by the creators, i give you the halloween/christmas mash-up nativity.
more animals! this time, it’s meerkats! hakuna matata.
not to be left out of the animal kingdom nativities, the frog nativity:
ok. if i had a line, i’ve probably crossed it by now. i hesitated on this one, but it was suggested SO many times last year, and it’s from a crafty little website called tamponcrafts.com (really). yup: it’s the tampon nativity:
more animals! this time its moose (meese? mooses?).
robin, the creator of this soap nativity, sent it to me. i suppose the birth of christ has something to do with getting us all squeeky clean.
i love this one: three wise-men cheers for the color nativity!
new to the list this year!
what’s more fun that a puzzle? i’ll tell you what: little puzzles made out of eraser stuff. and then–in case that wasn’t fun enough!–make ’em a puzzle eraser nativity set! obvious, right, since baby Jesus came to erase your sins!?
take, eat, this is the body of Christ MADE IN CHOCOLATE FOR YOU, nomnomnomnomnom.
a quick google image search will turn up a wide variety of nativity-themed nesting dolls. but i got a little chuckle out of the idea of the sheep being inside baby J on this one (alert reader Alison pointed out that “maybe that’s the ‘lamb of God’!”):
really, how did this list of wild and weird and wonderful and horrible nativities get to this ripe old age and NOT have a gingerbread nativity?? just like the nesting dolls, there are hundreds (homemade and not) in a quick google image search. here’s one of ’em:
speaking of gingerbread… just in case you’re hoping to communicate “WE ARE SO CUTE YOU MUST LOVE US” to your neighbors, here’s a gingerbread yard art nativity (i’m sure the word “art” is used merely for reference in that description):
what can i say: the world thanks etsy artist thepinkkoala for finally building a bridge of peace, ending the rancor brought on by the scopes monkey trial. now christians and darwinists can hold hands whilst viewing this monkey nativity set:
i’m salivating as i post this one, the fondant nativity, from etsy wonder craft rosy. jesus and dessert: two of my favorite things!
and my favorite two new additions this year:
you saw the snow globe nativity above with only baby jesus in the globe, right? well, a lovely and alert reader sent me a photo of this fantastic piece of awesomeness she saw at a thrift shop. yup, this time the snow globe is only on mary’s head. it’s like a space helmet! HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
and here i have to confess: this nativity is amazing. i want. i already have one on the list called the “minimalist nativity,” so i’m going to be forced to call this the “minimalist balls nativity.” seriously, this bit-o-brilliance makes it pretty clear that the nativity is iconic (btw: here are step-by-step instructions for making this one):
check out bohemian rhapsody re-written as “bethlehemian rhapsody” (so totally fun!).
also check out this awesome take on the real christmas story, as if it played out on facebook, and this fantastic imagining of the nativity story played out on a a wide variety of social media.