December is not only the month when a lot of people are hoping for snow, but it’s also the time when a huge part of the world celebrates Christmas. Families reunite, presents are exchanged, and although Christmas traditions may be different from place to place, one of its most important symbols is the Nativity scene.
So if you and your family display a Nativity set (or crèche) on Christmas, you are continuing a tradition that dates back centuries. People are getting very creative when it comes to setting out this famous scene, using materials like marble, wood, sandstone or pebbles for the figurines. One of the most original ways to recreate the birth of Jesus is using Nativity nesting dolls. These amazing pieces are more than just collectables, and below you can read more about their history and what are the best ones out there to display along with your Christmas tree.
The history of nesting dolls
Nesting dolls or Matryoshka dolls make most people think of Russia, as they symbolize the traditional Russian family and the importance of the mother figure in it. However, the first nesting dolls date back to around 1000 AD and come from China. The initial concept consisted of big wooden boxes containing smaller ones inside, which then evolved into figurines: what started as a set of decorative and functional boxes, became a set of nesting dolls. A particularly interesting aspect of these was that the smallest doll held a single grain of rice. This idea then emigrated to Japan and was taken over by Russia, more specifically by Elisaveta Mamontova, who brought this back to her country where artists started making their version of these dolls, which are now known as the Matryoshka dolls.
What does the Russian nesting doll symbolize?
The Russian Matryoshka dolls are the symbol of family, motherhood (the Latin equivalent of the word is “mater”, which means “mother”) and fertility. These nesting dolls have become one of the most important elements of Russian heritage and also the most widely-known tourist favorite souvenirs. The largest doll represents the matriarch of the family and the smallest one symbolizes the soul and it’s called the “seed” – all together they are a chain of mothers who carry on the family legacy.
Nowadays, these nesting dolls are also used as figurines for the Nativity scene, a key element when it comes to Christmas decorations.
The best nativity nesting dolls
Handmade Christmas decorations are one of the highlights of this holiday and something you can use year after year. Whether they are painted with vivid colors, or inspired by Renaissance art, there is a wide range out there to choose from and the recognizable characters will surely make their mark and will be the attraction everyone will look at. Nesting dolls are great decoration items, loved by both adults and kids and most of them are protected with a base of lacquer, making them last generations.
1. Obitel Minsk
One of the best Nativity nesting dolls can be found in the Obitel Minsk Catalog, and this set is particularly suitable for those who want a smaller set of characters from the Nativity scene, which can be placed even under the Christmas tree. All of their nesting dolls are high-quality, and the materials used are wood, acrylic paints, and varnish. The Matryoshka Nativity set available on their website is all hand-made, and painted and consists of Our Lady with Jesus, St Joseph, an Angel, a sheep and a star.
For those of you who are a fan of Santa Claus, Obitel also has Santa nesting dolls you can choose from: whether you go for the hand-carved and painted Santa with the snowman and penguin inside or the three Santas in a hat, these amazing matryoshkas will be the highlight of your Christmas decoration this year. What is more, if you have children, you will be happy to know that these Matryoshka dolls are often used as Montessori toys, as it allows kids to open the dolls and put them back in random patterns and it’s also a fun way for them to learn about Nativity and its meaning in the Christmas tradition.
Etsy is a well-known destination for online shopping, where you can find a large category of products, from handmade, and vintage to craft supplies. There is no surprise that you can also find many variations of Nativity nesting dolls: from the more traditional, icon-like ones to the Cartoon-like ones, there is one for every taste. Some of the pieces here are unique, so you might be lucky enough to find a Nativity nesting set that cannot be found anywhere else.
3. Firebird Workshop
The collection by Firebird Workshop is all handmade and hand-painted with water-based tempera. The extra value is added by the painters, who are Russian academic artists. Apart from the large variety of Nativity dolls, you can also find the traditional Matryoshkas, Russian fairy-tale, or personalized nesting dolls on their website.
There are other well-known places where you can choose your Nativity Nesting set, like Amazon or eBay, but the above-presented options are among the best if you are looking for high-quality, unique designs.
Nesting Dolls and Safety
Since many of the nesting dolls contain smaller parts that might be considered a choking hazard, not all of them are appropriate for children under 3 years old. Also, make sure that the paint used for these dolls does not contain harmful substances.
Christmas is a beautiful way to spend time with your loved ones but is also a great opportunity to display your decorative talents. For many people, decorating the house and the Christmas tree can become challenging, especially when one runs out of new ideas. Nesting dolls are beautiful decoration pieces that can be used year after year and will never go out of fashion.
Their history, craftsmanship and uniqueness make these Nativity nesting dolls the perfect Christmas decoration, and you can choose the one that works best for you from the large variety out there.