This is the Corn Husk Nativity. This decoration was always placed on our mantelpiece when I was a kid. The angel hung from a hook on the fireplace. I don't remember a Christmas without this decoration.
Originally I thought it was a project my mother and grandmother had made during their corn husk doll period but I recently learned it was a gift to my mother from a friend and she likely received a piece from each year.
I have been the keeper of this nativity almost since I moved away from home or shortly after I graduated from college. It's been bounced around from one apartment to the next and used to be on display all year in a house I rented. It is in surprisingly good shape for its lifespan and the aforementioned traveling from place to place. I've been searching for a stable it for several years and finally found really the perfect thing at a discount store that shall remain nameless. It has a moss-covered roof and special perch for the angel, who no longer hangs from her hook. That was really sort of cruel after all.
I had given up hope of finding anything that could work for them and resigned myself to stuffing them with Kleenex to get them to stand on their own. I displayed them this year, in their new stable on top of my entertainment center.
It's funny the role a group of corn husk dolls can play in your memory. I associated these pieces with our Christmas celebrations as much as I did the books my mother only let us read during the holiday season, the felt advent calendar with pieces we snapped on the felt tree every day and another Santa advent calendar that good friends of ours refilled with candy each year. My mother did a lot of things that made our holidays a special time. I suppose any tradition does. I'm so glad to have these things to remember her and that special season of the year when it seemed there was always a little magic in the air. She has been gone for almost 20 years but the time she took with us and her holiday preparations are still there in my memory. And now that these nativity people have a more permanent home it feels like she is closer to me than ever and a little bit of that magic has returned.