When we married and bought our first home, I was so excited to purchase my very own extended selection of Christmas decor. Back in the apartment days with roommates, there was room for nary a tree so I had some ornaments and that was about it. But with that first Christmas in the old house, I went shopping for all that is Christmas decor and joy.
Growing up, Zsa Zsa always dolled the entire house in Christmas cheer and one of my favorite vignettes was our nativity scene. I vividly recall as an older child moving the figurines around and re-enacting my own version of the how the birth of Christ went down. So, of course, when I was to extend my collection of decor, this was on the top of the list. I was so delighted to find a beautiful Dept 56 complete set at Home Goods for a reasonably discounted “steal of a price” for something like $80. Money was a bit tight, but I remember thinking what a keepsake piece this would be and how cherished I would always find it.
I still have that nativity set that I purchased about 11 years ago and it is well loved. To the point that between shuffling it up and down each year, the poor cow has lost an ear, both shepherds were decapitated, one lost legs and this year … the angel lost her wings. Sounds a bit scary, huh? Through the power of super glue, I’ve returned all of those victims to a decent state and the babe still lies in the manger peacefully. Whew.
Given my keepsake’s delicate state, I knew Lil B would terrorize it in an instant if I introduced him to the concept of “playing” with the nativity. Insert grand idea. I decided to make a separate, durable set that could be played with over the next few years and loved without risking my sweet prized set.
To make one of your own, you will need …
- Clipart for the figures
- 4×4 wooden post
- Mod Podge
To create, I …
- Start by preparing your wooden post. I went to Home Depot when they were not very busy and the kind gentleman in the lumber department even offered to cut mine for me! While they are always willing to give you a courtesy cut or two … I was asking for MANY – so best to go when they aren’t really slammed. I cut a piece of 4×4 wood into 5 inch blocks.
- Sand the lumber. Since it is unfinished, this is important!
- I used paint I had on hand to paint each block. You know how I love Annie Sloan chalk paint, so I used the Coco color as the base. It was pretty boring on it’s own, so I used a little remaining Old Ocree and a sponge to give a more exciting finish. Once a coat of Coco dried, I simply tapped the lighter color over top for a faux effect. (I’m so in love with the way it turned out, you may see this again on a dresser!)
- Next, source your clip art. There are MANY choose from online. Just trace them onto black card stock and cut. If you have a fancy cutter machine, (I have a Silhouette) you can find art and use that as well.
- Now, as always, (spoiler alert) I went with my plan B. I initially planned to make each figure on a separate block but let’s be honest … no one has space for about 15 4x4x5 blocks. So … I opted to put Mary, Joseph and Jesus on their own blocks then had a separate block for the Wise Men and another for the Shepherds. Camels and sheep filled in for the odd sides of the Wise Men and Shepherd blocks.
- Once you have your clip art cut out, simply paint (over the dry colored paint) a side of the block with Mod Podge and affix your paper silhouette over top.
- Repeat a coat of Mod Podge by painting OVER top of the paper silhouette to give a finish to it.
- For mine, I let it dry a bit then added a final sparkly coat of Mod Podge for a little holiday shimmer.
And voila, a rugged and durable nativity for our family. It’s such fun to explain the story to Lil B using this set and know that if he decides to crash cars into it or throw them on the floor (as any 2 year old would), it will not be destroyed (however my floor may take a beating!). This will be a new holiday tradition piece in our house for sure!
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