27 December, 2008

The creche naif.

You follow the D1 to reach Parignargues, a tiny village in the sun just outside Nimes. Another microclimat entirely, nearly everything is still green. Once you see a clock tower (at left) nearly leaning against a church tower, you'll know you have arrived. The village is mute, all animation is in the minute church. Just follow the sign.

In the 1940s, the village priest, l'abbe Jeanjean, built a nativity scene, using old clockworks and sewing machine engines to animate his busy vision. There is of course the baby Jesus, stage right, but the space is dominated by craftsmen--the pot thrower, the blacksmith, the chimney sweep et al. And munching sheep. The Three Kings and their camels trundle officiously and repeatedly by on a track, to better view the baby, who seems a bit outsized, but then again he isn't just any baby.

The activities reach a soaring crescendo with St. Michael, who uses his lance to imperiously smack a demon right back into hell. All this kitschy, earnest bustle is watched over by complacent Mary, resplendent with her tin and rhinestone crown. It's a lot of drama for a Saturday afternoon, and the highly satisfied children take turns dropping coins into the collection box placed there for the maintenance of the creche. Their coins set in motion another little baby Jesus, whose little display box lights up as he wiggles, waves, and all but coos at them. The religious fervor overwhelms us, and we rashly decide to get a jump on l'Epiphanie by committing cultural sacrilege and having a Galette aux Rois for tonight's dessert. (Place your bets on who finds the feve and wins the crown). I will make amends to French traditionalists everywhere by making my own Galette aux Rois on the first sunday in January...while daydreaming about Melchior, Gaspard and Balthazar--les Rois Mages--the Sorceror Kings.

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