Sign Of The Times: A Minimal Nativity Scene For A More Secular Xmas

Okay, we're about two months early on this one. But this thing is so abstract, you might as well throw it on the mantel and call it Halloween decor.

Let’s face it—lots of us are losing our religion. Many of us grew up in households that were decked out in religious artifacts, even if only for the holidays. And though many of us might eschew our religious beliefs, some of us still long for holiday family traditions. But do you truly see yourself with a full-on manger scene on your dining room table? How will you explain this to your Atheist buddies? What’s a lapsed Catholic to do?

Industrial designer Sebastian Bergne might have developed the Modernist’s happy medium. The Color Nativity is a set of seven hand-painted wood blocks that fit nicely in an accompanying wooden box. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Lincoln Logs. Set these blocks up just right, and you have yourself a bona fide nativity scene. The box transforms into a manger, and the set’s wooden divider becomes a minimalistic Star of Bethlehem.

"[The Color Nativity] is essentially an experiment to see if the characters are still recognizable even after they have been reduced to only their color and composition," Bergne tells Co. Design. "It is interesting to see that even people who might consider themselves to be without religion recognize most of the characters." We feel that the set could benefit from some block camels and block sheep. But hey, that’s just us.

This contemporary and irreverent display (note: lack of Jesus) could perhaps draw the ire of a few Catholic purists. But that’s not the designer’s intent. "I would be surprised if it raised eyebrows in the religious community," the designer says. "It totally respects and promotes Christian culture in a new and contemporary way."

The Color Nativity is available in a limited edition of six, at $215 each. But one at (shiny beacon of light not included).

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  • Laura's Last Ditch

    I believe this nativity scene to be beautiful. Having seen a gazillion tacky nativity scenes, this is refreshing. I think a Christian could proudly display it, though I DO think a Christian should have more important things to spend $215 on.

  • word2theP

    I appreciate the designer's interpretation and it should be still be celebrated as is intended.  However, I do not appreciate the author of this story to be condescending to those who wish to display a traditional nativity.  Christ is removed from Christmas each and every year.  So, Im not sorry if an Atheist would be offended to see a nativity in my own home. 

    And by the way, Christ is the white block.  "Swaddling Clothes".

  • Tim Parsons

    Thanks for highlighting this. It seems the apotheosis of an idea that has been gaining momentum among other nativity set makers such as Hilary Pfeifer (
    However I'm unconvinced by the argument that making the piece minimal is automatically a reflection of more secular beliefs. There are plenty of modern, minimalist churches (especially in Japan). Does this make them somehow less effective as places of worship? I expect their architects would claim the opposite.

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  • Crosau

    But there is no Christmas without Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels, etc. It may be innovative, but without any significance. The same can be achieved representing a chess game...

  • Imar

    I think this article takes a very strange angle and essentially misses the point. As Bergne says, Colour Nativity is a fresh interpretation of a symbol that risks losing its meaning through dull uniformity. As both a designer and a man of faith I applaud this creativity! However, I certainly would think twice about paying that amount for, let's face it, a set of blocks...

  • David Kaiser

    I like the aesthetics, but the symbolism seems to be lost in the mix, which is kinda the point, at least to a purist. Nonetheless, it's good to see people trying to reinvent traditional ideas. 

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  • Twocentsn

    The writer of this article has an arrogant perspective as though anyone with belief in God and Jesus is pretty silly.