I remember when I was a child, my parents would sometimes drive back to New Jersey from visiting friends in Brooklyn through Manhattan and past the Christmas crèche set up at St. Anthony’s near Greenwich Village. And here it is, still displaying its homey charm, greens tacked up with a random naturalness rather than something sophisticated and floristy. When I came across this photo today, I was reminded of a November, 1984 afternoon in Rome when I went into a small shop behind the Pantheon, looking for some small crèche figures to bring home to my mother. When I entered, I was surprised that the figures I’d admired in the window were plastic, not wood as they’d seemed. The signora assured me that plastica was much more practical, especially in a home where children might damage the figures, etc. And to demonstrate, she picked up the baby Jesus and threw it onto the floor. “Ecco!” she said as I gasped in horror.