Sunday, December 11, 2016

Great Aussie Tradition Comes to Bethlehem

This post was originally published in 2006 and after a refresh I thought it also deserved a new audience!!

I remember as a child that the first sign of the arrival of Christmas was my father taking out his treasured LP and the sound of Bing crooning "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas" filling the house. Now for you youngsters who read this column, I suggest you open up your Wikipedia site at Bing Crosby for some necessary background reading. .

Ten years ago Australian Cinema. was celebrating the success of  the movie, "Kenny" . It the story of a Port-a-loo plumber described as the "Dalai Lama of waste management". Kenny  established the convenient port-a-loo as a national icon with a status that rivals the Hills Hoist. (Back to your Wikipedia younger readers.). Who knows, perhaps a young entrepreneur will win the tender to provide appropriate Port-a-loos for the World Youth Day gathering in Panama 2019.

But, I digress. The reason I am thinking of Kenny this Christmas is that each year as I set up my nativity scene I incorporate images beyond the traditional manger setting. My nativity scene includes visitors such as the Flinstones, figurines from the Muppets and a larger than usual range of animals including dinosaurs!!!

The presentation of full scale Nativity scenes including the local neighbourhood is a custom popular in many European countries. Without doubt, the most intriguing of these customs is the Catalan tradition of including a Caganer in the Nativity setting.

This extra little character is often tucked away in some corner of the Bethlehem landscape, typically nowhere near the manger scene, where he is not easily noticed. This is because he is depicted sitting on a “loo” engaged in the most basic of human functions. A popular Christmas game is that children search through these nativity scenes to find the caganer. He is usually celebrated as a symbol of good luck as he replenishes the fertility of the land. The traditional caganer has now been taken over in many Nativity scenes by more popular and famous caganers. In 2006 the first Papal cagener was released  and  you can  order a Pope Francis Cagener to adorn your creche. The latest news is that the biggest selling Caganer of 2016 is the Trump model.

Perhaps our local version could be the inclusion of a Port-a-loo in all our nativity settings. This would add the aspect of hospitality to our cribs as all those shepherds and kings would need to visit the “little room” at some stage. The presence of this great Aussie icon also pays tribute to the long lost sense of sacred space us oldies experienced in the outdoor toilet.

So, have a great Christmas, and among your toasts at the Christmas dinner remember the “Kenny’s” of our community who set up and dismantle Port-a-loos for our convenience at public events!

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