[Image blatantly ripped from Bag of Toast.]
This nativity scene from a web comic brought back a lot of memories of my late grandmother. In the 80's she used to have a belen that is even more eclectic than the one Jeff Cohen assembled. It was about as big as a medium-sized cake box (heck, it probably was a cake box) and contained the basic nativity scene (the holy family, magi, shepherds) plus a host of other characters.
I think it just started with additional animals (cows, goats, etc.) which she raided from a collection of small plastic toys I had. It was a zoo set so the elephants and giraffes and lions and gorillas went in the belen, too. Then I got dinosaurs that year so the following Christmas T-Rex paid homage to Jesus, too.
[Aside: Later, of course, Jesus remembered and collected.]
It got crazier each year with Gundam and G.I. Joes, looking more like Baclaran on the 24th than Bethlehem, if Baclaran had zebras and giant robots gawking at a birth. As a kid who was being taught this stuff in school I was kinda weirded out but I loved it, still.
And the Christmas lights. Oh yeah. Not being content with a single star she would have flashing pinpoints all around the display. It was fun staring at it while playing a Christmas disco medley (which they still play in department stores 20 years later) and alternating it with the Voltes V theme.
Years later (after she passed away and we reverted to regular-looking belen) I'd learn about camp and kitsch and pop art, look back on that eclectic nativity scene, and wonder if my lola did have something more in mind than just throwing in every little plastic figurine she could find around the house.
Perhaps it was a message of inclusiveness, that Christmas is for everyone, from prehistoric creatures to futuristic beings. Or maybe a critique against the commercial turn of the holiday. Or a satirical commentary on the inclusiveness Vatican II. But lola did always have some Zen thing going on. Maybe it's purely decorative, and exercise in composition.
Or maybe I'm just over analyzing.
My only regret is that no one took pictures. It would've been great to post them now. Heck, maybe I'll assemble one next year.