Every Christmas, we put up a Nativity set which belonged to my parents. I don't know its history; the stable has a date stamp of 1937 on the base. The crèche may have belonged to my dad's family. Or my mom's. Or maybe my dad made it in high school; he was quite good at carpentry. In 1950 or so, my mom painted a Bethlehem scene on the back wall.
I've had to repair the stable several times; the years have taken their toll on the wood, which has dried out, warped and split. But I'll never throw it away because it is part of my family's Christmas tradition.
In addition to its original - presumably Pennsylvania-made - parts, some of the wood components have been replaced using branches from our trees - some from when we lived in Oregon and some from our present Washington location. New straw, bought locally, has replaced portions of the original roof. In 2018, I smoothed out the original wood base and applied artificial grass and other ground cover - the same types used on my O-gauge train layout - to create a more realistic floor covering.
My two children had Nativity figures but no structure in which to house them. In 2004, I fabricated two new stables - one for each - and presented them as Christmas gifts. I kept the 1937 model for my wife and me.
St. Francis of Assisi first popularized the Christmas manger in the 13th Century. The use of a manger or feeding trough as a makeshift bassinet inside a barn or stable recalled the Gospel according to Luke, who wrote that Mary gave birth to Jesus, and "laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
These many centuries later, we still use miniature Nativity scenes to remind us of the real meaning of Christmas.
No one knows what the real stable and manger looked like; in those ancient times, there was no thought given to preservation of historic sites. Like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes, the original Nativity stable no longer exists. Except in the hearts of Christians everywhere.
And it came to pass, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.
The Angel said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Glory to God in the highest and, on Earth, peace and good will toward men."