Nativity sets, trees, lights—what’s your favorite Christmas decoration? Mine is my Nativity collection that I feature on a buffet with white lights, and I want to share why I think it’s an important part of my Christmas decorations.
The Nativity is what Christmas is about—Jesus’ birth is the centerpiece with Mary and Joseph by his side. Three Wisemen bring their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Shepherds kneel close to the Christ Child in humble adoration. And an Angel stands near Jesus glorifying his birth.
I have a fun collection of Nativity sets I’ve gathered over the years I’d like to share with you.
The Beginning to My Nativity Collection
The oldest one I have is a mobile I made in the 70s that I turned into a mobile we hang each year. I also made a set of three Wiseman candle holders made of plaster craft. I had them set up on the mantel one Christmas and a wreath fell off the wall above them and knocked two of them off, injuring them slightly. So, I’ve kept them and loved them every year.
In my early travels to Mexico in the 70s, I noticed a beautiful blue pottery and bought a cup, saucer and plate early on. On another trip, I bought a beautiful pitcher. I found out today on the internet this pottery is called Tonala blue pottery. In the 80s, I bought a fourteen-piece Nativity set of this blue pottery. I place in the center of my collection every year. From an older set, I add some animals to fill it out.
I remember bringing that set home in a carry-on bag. Carefully, I wrapped each piece and worked hard to make sure nothing broke. They arrived safe and in one piece.
So slowly over the years, I’ve added to my collection. I have a Native American set, a music box, a Peruvian candleholder, and a small happy kids’ set. In 2020, I picked up a small set in Spain that looks very Gaudí!
Why do I gather a multi-ethnic Nativity sets? Jesus was a dark-skinned middle East man, yet many people only see him as they are—whatever the color of their skin! His nationality doesn’t matter; therefore, He can be a Native American, a Mexican, a middle easterner, or an American!
I’ll end with one more Nativity set—our outside set I inherited from my parents. I love looking out our kitchen window and seeing it lit up every night on our patio.
Here’s one of my favorite Christmas saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s why I set up my collection each year—to honor who this holiday is about!
World exploring and its wonders! Souvenirs, pictures, reminisces of fun-filled travels remind me daily of my experiences in this big beautiful world. Because of the pandemic, we canceled our travel plans for later in 2020 and have nothing planned for 2021. So today, I wondered why I love to travel so much. The packing and planning put many people off, but I enjoy every part of a trip.
I grew up in a small rural ranching community fifty miles from the nearest doctor and grocery store. I lived in a small town though, but the world out there seemed so big and unattainable, beyond the prairies and canyons of southeastern Colorado. Granddad Horner subscribed to the National Geographic magazine, and I thumbed through each issue, mesmerized by that world out there and its mysteries. I blushed at the foreign women’s bare chests, yet yearned to see that world.
Granddad and Grandma Horner took annual vacations touring the United States, and I relished their slide show of pictures from places I dreamed about in the United States—the Grand Canyon, Bullhead City and so much more.
My dad, a high school graduate and world thinker, read voraciously and kept educated about world matters so much so I gave him a globe for Christmas one year so he could find that faraway country he’d read about.
So, I inherited a large worldview, bigger than Colorado, bigger than the United States. My first husband and I discovered Mexico: Mazatlán and the Yucatan peninsula in the 70s, when tourist hadn’t discovered both areas yet. When I saw my first Mayan Indian ruin, I felt captivated by the mystery, and I was hooked.
After we divorced, I traveled with a girlfriend back to the Yucatan peninsula to see many more Mayan Indian ruins and then on to Tikal in Guatemala, the Mecca of Mayan Indian ruins to me.
Then in 1999, Mom and I took our first European trip to do an Eastern Europe tour, basically to find her lost grandfather who had immigrated into the United States, but we had no record of his entrance here. That trip opened me up to a larger world—the wonders of eastern Europe with so many historical sites and cities.
In Berlin, we looked in a phone book for Mom’s granddad’s last name, Ulbig, and found several names listed. Neither of us spoke enough German to call any of our possible relatives. So, we tore that page out of the phone book, and that became Mom’s favorite souvenir of our trip. I cried during our tour of Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp, a horrible example of man’s inhumanity against man. I will never forget that sight.
In 2001, my third husband and I drove the Can-American highway in our RV to Alaska. What an adventure that was! We saw Denali, Alaska’s tallest mountain, usually shrouded in clouds. We took a small airplane ride up to a glacier and walked around on it, surrounded by absolute white.
During our years together, we toured the United States in an RV, dancing and sightseeing all over the United States. We went up the west coast in 2003, promoting a national festival. We traveled to the Midwest and east—so many adventures.
In 2007, I joined the cruising world doing an inside passage tour to Alaska on a square dance cruise. I feel in love with cruising.
My present husband and I love to travel and see the world. We have taken several cruises—what a relaxing vacation they are. On one, we went through the Panama Canal and marveled at that amazing engineering feat.
In 2017, we traveled to England and Ireland. Lin drove in both countries and we had a delightful time. In Ireland, we saw the Cliffs of Moher, enjoyed dancing in Irish pubs and enjoyed staying in bed and breakfasts. While visiting England, we based ourselves in London, alternating between a tour one day and a free day the next. In London, we visited the British Museum, realizing we could have spend days there. We saw Stonehenge on a tour but were so rushed; I didn’t buy one souvenir there. We saw a Broadway play, Les Misérables, on the West End, and Lin vowed never to attend a play in the USA again since the production was so outstanding.
In January 2020, we went to Costa Rica with my husband, Lin’s ex-wife who is Costa Rican. The group was small, only twelve! She knew everyone in the group; we knew her, her husband and one other couple. Lin had told me repeatedly he wanted me to see Costa Rica. We had stopped at a Costa Rican port on one of our cruises, but his ex-wife shuddered when he told her where. She said it wasn’t a great example of Costa Rica. On our tour with her, we saw animals galore, ate delicious food and saw many gorgeous sites. I saw a quetzal bird in the jungle, a bird I had heard about thirty years before on the Yucatan peninsula.
At the end of February 2020, we went to Spain with twelve square dance friends and fell in love with Spain. We saw several major Spanish cities, starting in Barcelona and ending up in Madrid. We traveled through Don Quixote land, and I could see him mounted on his trusty stead, Rocinante, a long side his trusty companion, Sancho Panza.
So why do I enjoy traveling so much? I love seeing that world Granddad and Dad introduced me to so many years ago. When I stand at a site like Strafford-on-the Avon, Shakespeare’s home, I can’t believe this little country girl is there. The tour guide hugged me there as I cried. She remarked, “I wish all people responded like you.”
In my travels, the big world has shrunk, because I now know people in Scotland, Ireland and England. We sat and chatted, and I realized we have the same hopes and dreams—we’re really all the same.
In March of this year, Lin got a little cabin fever and had received several brochures promoting cruises next year. So, we signed up for two cruises in 2022 and one for 2023. The first one next year is a Transatlantic cruise going from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Barcelona, Spain. Our next one goes through the Mediterranean. And in 2023, we travel to Japan.
In conclusion, I travel to discover what’s out there—my dad used to look at a side dirt road going up over a hill and out of view. He always commented, “I wonder where that goes!” Obviously, I inherited his wanderlust, but he never traveled outside the United States, so I do it for him.
Do you like to travel? What is your favorite travel memory? Why do you travel? (Scroll down below to make a comment!)
Thirty-five years ago, I wrote a poem after my memorable adventure in Cobá, Mexico, in the summer of 1985. Laying solemnly unattended in a folder on my computer, it has haunted me over the years. Today, I recalled my surreal experience when I wrote the poem, remembering the physical parts of the Cobá experience, and then the magic I added.
In 1986, also, I was finishing up my coursework at Colorado State University. We studied magical realism in my Spanish classes, looking at the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. This genre fascinated me—reality with a dash of magic.
So, what is magical realism:
Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. Magical realism is a part of the realism genre of fiction.
Within a work of magical realism, the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. Like fairy tales, magical realism novels and short stories blur the line between fantasy and reality.
For several years, the Mayan culture and the Yucatán peninsula captured my attention, so I visited many Mayan Indian ruins there: Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Tulum, and Cobá. During tours at each ruin, I took copious notes. I bought several books and read about the Mayans, their culture and beliefs and absorbed details.
During our 1985 trip to Cobá, much of it lay overgrown with heavy jungle vegetation. Lynn Hafer, my travel companion and I stayed at a Club Med hotel nearby, but it wasn’t a “Swinging Singles’” Club Med infamous at the time but a research facility with a full library and a quiet, somber setting. Because of its remote location, the Mexican government had not commercialized Cobá yet, so what a raw jungle experience we had!
In 1991 I continued my Mayan treks. To celebrate my completion of my master’s degree, Lynn and I went to Guatemala to one of the largest Mayan Indian ruins, Tikal, a dream come true for this Mayan ruin lover. However, my experience, noted in this poem at Cobá, regularly surfaced and haunted me, so I thought I’d share it with you. In looking at it today, I felt the call to revise!
Cobá—I Was there!!
Written – March, 1986
Revised – July 25, 2021
The year was 1985.
Walking down an overgrown jungle path with my friend,
toucan birds squeak above my head
nestled in the canopy.
A turn in the road, thick over-growth blocks the sun
for a minute.
Shadows, sounds, smells--
transported me back to 900 A.D.
A shiver pierces my soul.
I stare at crumbled ruins
while an iguana lazily poses on a low step,
large but approachable.
Colorful in dress, Mayans step out
of the past and the bushes,
brush my arm.
I strain to see their faces
to hear their voices.
Is it real?
The bees buzz in the tops of the
Trees among the orchids that
Decorate the canopy
With their color.
The bees’ hum above
Joins the voices below.
Where am I?
A step back in time, yet caught between
Two worlds—then and now!
Had I been here before?
At this spot,
Standing at the foot of this Temple,
surrounded by my fellow Mayans,
Worshipping the god "Chac" and
Listening to the familiar
Squeak of birds
and the laughter of howling monkeys.
The smell of Copal, sweet incense, fills the air
Odor of honey and grain,
My sacrifice to my god.
A bright fire illumines the scene
With reflections and smoke.
The drums beat—beat—beat a familiar steady cadence.
Draw me to them.
The Mayan priests chant—chant—chant soft sounds that join the
Bass beat of the drums.
The Mayan language a mystery to me,
Yet I know it’s deep meaning.
I sway to the beat—the chant.
It vibrates in my soul calling me forth
Through the ages,
Past time’s illusive barrier!
Dark bronze skins glisten in the firelight.
Brown eyes search our faces for safety.
Flat heads surprise me with their symmetry.
I marvel at the feathery headdresses with multiple colorful gowns.
I join the celebration,
Small sturdy people crowd around me,
Greet me in a soft rhythmic tongue.
Gently, friendly—a spark shines in
Their eyes with recognition!
THEY KNOW ME! I'm among my own. I'm home!!!
But it can’t be!
I grew up in Colorado
Not centuries ago
"Did you hear that? What was that?" my friend grabs
TO REALITY, or is it?
The summer's heat presses in,
The sun's scorching heat
Eerie sounds and hums flow
Through the air.
Eerie, yet familiar.
I strain to hear it better
To hear the beat of the past
To see those familiar brown eyes.
I want to return!
But can I?
Déjà vu? A poem capturing my experience or a fictional treatment? I can’t explain what happened that day so many years ago, but I know it was surreal. My poetry helped me express what I felt, not exactly what I saw. When I wrote the poem, the total experience happened. For years, this poem haunted me with its expression of possibility. I believe there’s unexplainable mystery in this world. Maybe that’s why I am attracted to the genre of magical realism and the chance that I witnessed a Mayan ceremony so many centuries ago.
A mystery happened this afternoon. I planned to use pictures from that 1985 trip to Cobá, but I couldn’t find my photo album. I found pictures from our second trip to Cobá 1986. Historically, I take lots of pictures on any trip—what happened to that album? Another puzzle added here—I wonder?
Have you ever had an unexplainable experience like mine? What happened? How did you honor it and record it? (Scroll below to make a comment)