Last year my mother sent me a beautiful Nativity Scene she bought in Italy. I was so excited to unwrap the pieces — the set was similar to one that my family has in Ohio.
This nativity scene was different. Included was a manger, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and an unknown character that resembled a hobo-clown. I was immediately creeped out. Was there a part of the story of Jesus’ birth that I didn't know about? Did the Italians ascribe to a crusty looking clown the role of Father Christmas?
I refused to let the Hobo Christmas Clown sit in the manger with the rest of the normal nativity characters, so I banished him to the back yard. I was frustrated to discover a small window in the back of the manger, though, so in his exile, the clown was able to peer in, surely scaring the swaddle blanket off Baby Jesus.
My mission was to try to find out who this clown was. He didn’t appear to be a wise man, or an angel, and none of my friends could think of any other possibilities. They were even more freaked out than I was, and one time, when we were playing Scrabble, my friend, Patty, insisted we put him in the closet. My other friend, Eric, worried that the clown might get mad and cast wrath upon us if we mistreated him, so we returned him to his spot in the back yard.
I swear he moves around the manger. Sometimes he will oversee Baby Jesus, sometimes he will cuddle next to Mary, and sometimes he will lay face-down in the back yard. Once, I found him in a microwave popcorn bag. Admittedly, these transitions usually occur around the time that my friends are over, but I am not eliminating the possibility that the Hobo Christmas Clown has a life of his own.
I worry that my fear of him might get out of hand. I can see myself bringing him thimbles of warm milk and letting him look outside for 30 minutes every day, and I already play soft rock radio for him in the morning because that is what I believe he enjoys.
Can anyone figure out who this nativity character is meant to be? My sanity is at stake!
Above: The Hobo Christmas Clown, exiled to the back yard of the manger scene.