the 42 worst nativity sets

NOTE: this is the 2012 list. For the 2016 update, with 70 nativities, click here!

each year i’ve posted an expanding list of “the worst nativity sets.” last year, things blew up (120,000 visits on one day, a half million total visits, almost 50,000 shares on facebook). i started adding to the post, but couldn’t keep up.

this year, i thought about skipping it. but my lovely wife encouraged to give it another go.

a few comments right up front:

  • after posting these for years, most of them have moved — in my thinking — from “worst” to “awesome.” there are still a few i think hideous, due to my own subjective criteria. but calling it the “42 worst nativity sets” is probably no longer accurate, particularly as i own a few of ’em.
  • 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!).
  • for the most part, i’ve only included nativities that were made as nativities (though there are a few notable exceptions to this rule that i couldn’t resist). 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 two of them, because they both made me laugh out loud (proving that i cannot effectively draw the line).

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 the 2010 holiday season… 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 last year’s nativity post blew up, 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 was 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.

a cheat on one of my rules: the godzilla nativity. horrible/funny/creative/sacrilegious.

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.
but this one, 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…

new to the list this year!

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.

and the final new addition this year is my favorite of the new ones. three wise-men cheers for the color nativity!

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.

122 thoughts on “the 42 worst nativity sets”

  1. I discovered this list on a really down day. Oh my goodness! It made me laugh so hard! The arranged food one pushed me over the edge! I couldn’t breathe! Showing this to our teens at youth group for our Christmas party tomorrow night- they’re gonna love it!! Thank you for your hard work!

  2. I don’t normally comment on things but I could not resist letting you know that there are wise men on ebay made from Mrs Butterworth bottles. It’s a sight to behold.

  3. We haven’t laughed so much in ages !! Really creative ideas, marvellous variety and I don’t think it is possible to be worse than these. I hope I don’t miss the next list and i must get it to my son Gwynfor. We are both church organists and after 20+ “O Come All Ye Faithfuls” we need something to cheer us up. Happy Christmas 2013 in advance !!

  4. I really enjoyed your collection and especially your commentary. As for the one with the children…I would think it represents a Sunday school program. It saddens me to find so many nativities that feature wise men but no shepherds (quite a few). That seems to indicate that the rich, famous and so called “important” were honored but the meek and lowly were excluded or overlooked. That is so contrary to God’s plan.

  5. Mark, I noticed that the updated page that has list of 42 doesn’t include the s’mores nativity. As your comment noted, that one certainly rates high on the list. Fortunately they didn’t use roasted marshmallows in either of those – that concept would have been SO wrong and disturbing.

    @ Dianne Miller – I agree about omitting the shepherds. The shepherds were the first to be told the news of Jesus’ birth. I think that God made a strong point for the ages by choosing them to be the first blessed with the news. He honored and put first hard laborers, those who are often isolated, lonely, forgotten, and or denigrated and degraded.

  6. I have about 150 creches and I’m happy to report none of the above!! Well…have to take that back…I think my daughter-in-law just gave me her Veggie Tales creche this past year…thanks for the chuckle.

  7. I was mortified by these. I wish I could have laughed at them but they made me feel sick (especially the meat one). Since we don’t worship the crèche scenes I don’t have a problem with them in our homes but some of the stranger aberrations made me wonder about creating God “in their own image”. They were very disturbing. Thanks for sharing them

  8. Thank you, Jeannie, for encouraging Mark to “give it another go.” And thank you, Mark, for making me laugh so hard on this dark, cold Alaska morning that I nearly fell off my chair-with-hip-dysplasia and onto the floor. Formerly snoozing nearby Lab was visibly shaken. THANK YOU!

  9. “off my chair in anchorage” — thanks! you’re reading the 2012 list, btw. i’ll be posting a new list (with about 50 this year!) in a week or so!

  10. Wow! Startling really that we have reduced it to these tokens and yet the humor was off the chain! The starfish covering Mary’s chest and the mer-jesus in the Mexican Mermaid Nativity are by far the most appalling (tampon art not withstanding), and the food arrangement being the funniest. The cupcakes were cute but wouldn’t last a second in my house!

  11. I am almost speechless……my only nativity set is a 23 piece set of hand-painted ceramic, beautifully and tastefully done my my mother-in-law, who was a talented woman. But I must confess to having. Bobble-head Jesus on the dashboard of my car. We call Him Bobblehead Jesus from Hell, because we bought it in Hell, Michigan! I told my sister we would probably be struck by lightning, but God knows what is in our hearts. We are sincere Christians, and believe that The Lord gave us our warped sense of humor for a reason.

  12. I am a collector. The children’s nativities, like the ducks Veggie Tales, etc are a great way to tell the story to small children. Many handcrafted ones, particularly from, Latin America are beautiful works of art, mixing ethnic culture into the story of the Nativity, for instance, I have several from Peru, which utilize corn in the presentation. In there culture corn is a staple and represents life. I have a beautiful set made from seed pods from Honduras. The artist took available material and used it to make his depiction of the story.
    There are several noted above, I would not have, and I would add the Simpson’s one to the list.

  13. Okej! I knew I had done a proper job raising my 5 kids non-religiously while driving through Minneapolis one winter night and someone yelled from the back seat in reference to a live nativity scene we had just passed: “oh my god, did you guys see that?! They had the baby AND THE JESUS!!!” Woo Hoo! There’s hope for the next generation!!!

  14. I will have to find my pictures of Noche de los Rabanos in Oaxaca, Mexico, where the entire central square – which is large – is covered with dioramas made of giant carved radishes, including many nativity scenes. Very interesting

  15. As an avid searcher for weird nativity sets for under $1.00, I had to admire your collection. Of course, I do not collect these works of art for me, but for my sister, who has an entire display on her mantle at Christmas. She lives in Bethlehem, Pa. ironically. Her’s includes a marshmallow peep nativity and some very plastic fantastics. I have made a glow in the dark version for her. Your collection is great. I can’t decide which is my favorite, although the snow globe is truly inspirational. I have always admired the large plastic nativities in yards and in church yards. The myth continues!
    We also have one cut into a walnut, from Mexico.

  16. I’m a christian, but I loved these. Even though I’m sick with a stomach virus on Thanksgiving, I had to laugh out loud at most of them. I will always be moved by the true Christmas story, but I’m also able to see the humor and appreciate the creativity of these designers. God has blessed us with the ability to design, and I suspect that Jesus himself would have laughed at these. I don’t feel that it makes him any less holy.

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