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Nostalgia — Real or Imagined?

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A 1920 vintage nativity, fresh out of the box from Germany, features soft colors, deep embossing — and 88 years worth of nostalgia? 
It seems Saying “Goodbye” — Louis Dausse of Paper Models International hit a chord, because I've been hearing from enthusiasts who were touched by the Dausses' adieu after 35 years in the paper model business. You also found in their story much you could relate to.

Carolyn Hobbes laments that "The Internet is taking over, [and] paper models are fading away," and writes about the excitement of finding, "That special item, with hand-mixed colors and that special sheen, with lovely embossing — [and] going home so thrilled with your treasure."

Nathaniel Bronte comments, "I certainly understand nostalgia for an older time, but I am wildly enthusiastic about the technologies of today." He goes on to extol the virtues of the computer revolution, his Kindle Reader, and 9,000 pages of world literature at about half a cent per page.

Our good friend Celso's reply to all that technology? Buh humbug!

In the case of the paper crèche, nostalgia will always prevail. It is not only nostalgia, but the history behind a piece of paper. For me, an image taken from a CD-Room and printed on my own inkjet printer at a cost of 85 cents will never replace the charm and history of a pop-up crèche that may be more than 100 years old. I think many people share this feeling, otherwise we would not see paper crèches being purchased on e-Bay by more than $800.

Celso! How did you know that winning bid was mine?

Just kidding. I haven't yet paid $800 for a paper nativity, although Celso thinks I must have come pretty close, but I know exactly what Celso is talking about. I have a little story to share with you that will illustrate our nostalgia vs. technology discussion.

Besides a cellophane window and some reinforcement, the manger back shows its deep embossing and 1920 date. 
A vintage crèche

It's always exciting getting a package from Europe, because if I don't see Greek stamps I know there's a crèche inside. And, given the care that some dealers take in wrapping, sometimes it takes an Xacto knife and precision cutting to get past all that tape, without damaging the precious contents.

So you can understand my excitement as I held in my hand the nativity shown at the top of the page. The soft colors and deep embossing more than make up for its simple, three-plane construction.

The manger of wooden clapboards framed by palms and dessert plants opens to reveal The Nativity. On the back wall, a half-hidden cow and donkey are busily munching hay, while two shepherds in Easter dress approach.

The middle plane depicts Joseph, standing behind Mary, who's right arm adjusts the Baby's swaddling clothes.

A six-pointed star shines on the straw roof, and on the back shows the deep embossing that gives it its special charm. There, "1920" is written in ink.

So, Celso, we're talking 88 years of history here. One wonders how many people have loved this nativity just as much, or more, than I do? Was it displayed under a Christmas tree? Did it grace the family mantel? Piano? Or a child's window sill?

Compare this closeup of the shepherd and Mary pieces of this vintage nativity: do you see the tell-tale marks of the Xacto knife on the hand of Joseph (behind Mary)? Perhaps this "vintage" nativity is not 100% vintage, after all. 
And, as a Greek saying goes, "The years do not come alone." In other words, all those 88 years have left their mark on this paper nativity: notice the cracks on the palms on the left, the missing leaves on the right, the little creases and worn out areas, marks all of the vintage nativities that we love.

This crèche took pride of place on my desk, where I usually place a new nativity before photographing it and displaying it in my collection. But I found myself staring at it, and not just because I found it so appealing.

There's something about it, I remember thinking, that doesn't belong. Take another look at the top of the page. Can you tell what it is?

Give up? Shall I tell you?The Holy Family piece is not original

Sometime in those 88 years that piece was lost, and an enterprising someone xeroxed the Holy Family piece from another crèche, mounted on cardboard, cut it out — and perhaps passed it off as an original. There was no mention of this addition on the crèche Internet listing. I thought I was buying a genuine article, so I wrote the seller, and received a reply the very next day:

The eyes may be fooled, but not the camera — the back of the crèche shows the original watercolor; on the right, Mary's eye tells a different story. 
Dear Alexis,
I am very sorry and I understand your dissappointment. I got this crèche from a friend, and I really did not take a good look at it. If I had known, I would have written, as I always do in my description: "Restaurated," restored.
If you wish, you can of course send us the crèche back and we will refund your payment. I am very sorry.
Kind regards…

I do believe it was an honest mistake, since I've had satisfactory business with this dealer for a number of years. But what's troubling me is this:

For almost two weeks, to me this was a beautiful crèche, xeroxed piece and all! (What's the saying? Ignorance is bliss?) Does the knowledge, then, that this nativity was "restored," with a copied piece make it no longer lovely?

I may have sent this nativity back to the dealer, but I'm still thinking about the answer to that question. And what does only having a two-thirds vintage crèche do to the nostalgia factor?

It may all subject to interpretation and personal preference, but I almost wish I hadn't found out about the xerox — and that "vintage" nativity was still sitting on my desk.

— Alexis

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