the 42 worst nativity sets

NOTE: this post is the 2012 list. for the 2017 list (now with 77!), 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 have the dog nativity set and LOVE it. I think the dogs go to the rainbow bridge and wait for their human to meet them when we humans go home to be with GOD. Just saying there is a place in heaven for all God’s creation…

  2. Hysterical!!
    I think the duckie nativity is my favorite. I belong to a writing group known as the Odd Duck Society, and found that one charming and appropriate.

    Not many are to my taste (!!!) but they are all creative and most are funny, creative or interesting. The one using potato chip bags etc made me LOL!!

    Awesome post. I love it.
    Rejoicing in the day,
    -Mary

  3. Now we know how not to do it, so….. show me the Monet? :-)
    Do any ‘authentic’ nativities exist? I’d love to see good taste!

  4. Just love these! My kids gave me the rubber ducky nativity last year to add to my collection, and I laugh every time I think about it. And, of course, I have bears. I’m sure God enjoys these, too. At least the “designers” were aware of the story, and maybe they will pursue the topic!

  5. I love my little rubber ducky nativity set. It’s actually the only nativity set that I own. I am not big on decorating for Christmas but I usually find a place somewhere in my small apartment for the ducks. During the rest of the year, my pirate rubber duckies guard my shower. :)

  6. Now I will have to sue you because these “nativity scenes” gave me a coronary, and I’m Jewish!

    I guess there is no limit to the tastelessness of which many people are capable.

    Thank you for ferreting out irrefutable evidence that the world is rightly doomed!

  7. When I saw the title I immediately thought of two that made me laugh in years past. One, the bacon nativity, you have covered (though not the same one), but where is the bobble head nativity?

  8. Fabalous!

    Not sure if you are accepting outdoor scenes…Last X-mass I went to the mall with my sweetie and our dog. After a few…we decided to remove the baby Jesus form the cresh and replace him with our dog Pickles in his camo stroller. Happy to send a pic if you’d give me an email :)

    xoxo, AK

  9. I’m an atheist who also collects nativity sets (although on a much more limited basis) simply because I find them charming. I especially like the color block set and wish I could afford one.

  10. My worst “nativity” was actually a watercolor painting (and I use the word loosely) on the window of our first Taco Bell. It showed the baby Jesus in a manger inside a Taco Bell. It looked like it was painted by a kid with finger paints. The “building” was a pitched roof and 2 stick walls. I guess someone thought: “Hey, He’s got a Hispanic name, lets put Him where He can get some Mexican food?” Or more than likely they weren’t thinking at all. Maybe He’ll show up at Burger King next? Eek!

  11. Since Scripture, Ten Commandments, forbids “graven images” to represent
    the Deity, Nativity scenes are highly questionable. These scenes confirm
    my reasons for avoiding them, altogether. dp

  12. The “peg doll” scene didn’t scream ‘manger’, but certainly yelled “Oh No, it’s Devo!”
    Thanks for the laughs!

  13. For a youth pastor, I think that these comments were pretty offensive. I believe that-as in all art- beauty is in the eye of the beholder…Needless to say, I am sure that the artists behind these sets were proud of themselves, as this is their rendition of the Holy gift of Christmas…

  14. You have made my day! The nativities, then the links at the bottom, through which I also found the Silent Monks Singing the Hallelujah Chorus. May you never lose your sense of humor with which to find quirky things to make us all laugh! Bless You!

  15. Can’t believe how sick our society is getting….No more dignity even to the Holy Family. I’m sure you will one day be rewarded for your depraved humor

  16. Hi, Mark. Just a quick follow up to thank you again for your permission to share this on my own blog. I got a really good response to it, and I hope you got some click through views.

    Merry Christmas.

    Alan Andrews

  17. Seriously–still laughing. Your comments are as priceless as the Nativities. Love ’em all, but the snack food one–genius.

  18. I collect nativities and fortunately do not have any of these. But have seen a few of them, resisted the urge to buy.

  19. The one where Mary and Joseph look like children, is I believe a Hummel figurine. All the figures made by Hummel look like children.

  20. Well, there is certainly a wide variety of animal nativities … some I never thought of! Certainly a lot of “Nativity Creativity” going on out there!

  21. I am so glad your wife encouraged you to keep performing this very important public service. It serves as a caution to the rest of us to
    keep taking the high road. I wouldn’t have thought that you would
    be able to find as many as 24, especially each year, but hey….

  22. Kudos to you. I moved from thinking that some people have WAY too much time on their hands to remembering that reaality is a socially constructed thing. The notions of God-made-human and an infant king with a mission of peace are big ideas. Why was I surprised that people have a need to translate them into familiar contexts? I join you in thnking they are awesome, and OK, a couple are faintly creepy. Thanks for inviting us to think it through!

  23. So very odd… I love the color blocks. I think I’ll print this out and write a Christmas Letter on the back.

  24. Enjoyed the collection – it reminded me of a mexican cultural tradition: crafts, including nativity scenes, made of carved radishes. i know it sounds hard to believe but when you see them in the huge christmas eve market in Oaxaca, it sort of makes sense.

    Don’t have any pictures we took but the web always provides what one needs:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilhuicamina/331156217/

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