How the Nativity scene, a Christmas staple, has evolved.

Previously published Slate articles made new.
Dec. 23 2009 10:09 AM

Crèche Course

How the Nativity scene, a Christmas staple, has evolved.

Public displays of the Nativity scene, unlike Jewish menorahs or Christmas trees, always seem to ruffle a few feathers. In fact, they're banned at New York schools, though activists regularly seek to challenge (so far unsuccessfully) the ruling on the basis of discrimination. Liesl Schillinger, in a 2007 slide-show essay reprinted below, tracks the evolution of what she calls a "3-D representation of the holiest of holy moments."

Click here to launch a slide show.

Round about Halloween this year, New York's Catholic League sent a letter to the local Department of Education, protesting the ban of Christian Nativity scenes in area schools—where Jewish menorahs and Muslim emblems of Ramadan are permitted. Is this a clear case of discrimination against the majority and favoritism of the minority? Christmas envy? Or is something else going on? In the words of of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ, Superstar (set around a different Christian holiday), "What's the buzz? Tell me what's a-happening?!"

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Read the Crèche Course slide-show essay about the Christmas crèche.

Liesl Schillinger is a New York-based arts writer.

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