It must have been 1968 or ’69. Our neighbors across the road erected the first life-size (or nearly so) Nativity that my little-boy eyes had ever seen.
Today it would be considered tacky, but back then it was quite the spectacle. The stable built with sawmill slabs and floored with hay, all the characters arranged perfectly around the manger. I am sure it cost a pretty penny, even in ’60’s dollars.
It was a lot like this photo:
I have always wondered why they did it. As far as I know, they weren’t religious in any sense of the word. They could have chosen Santa Claus and his reindeer or a Frosty the Snowman scene just as easily (actually they would add all that over the next few years). All were available in the Sears Wish Book. But the real mystery was why spend all that time, money and effort since we lived so far out in the country? Not much chance anyone was actually going to see it. Except us. We lived right across the road, and it was practically at the end of our driveway.
The crowning touch was that the whole display was wired for sound — full stereo— with a continuous loop of Christmas music playing from speakers carefully hidden in the stable.
The only problem was that there wasn’t a big selection of tunes on that loop. I am sure there had to be some old standards befitting the solemness of that singular day in history. Maybe Silent Night or Angels We Have Heard on High. But the only song I can remember hearing, over and over and over again, was this one.
It stuck. To this day, I can’t look at a Nativity scene and not hear Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
Author’s note: I first wrote a version of this piece in 2012. I heard the song today and it brought it back to mind.