Christmas and Controversy

the cardboard crib
the cardboard crib

Yes, I was asked to design a Christmas crib for the local church. It’s a couple of years ago now but – talk about a controversy – and I didn’t even realise that I was being “radical”.

I built the crib out of cardboard – my thinking was that if Mary and Joseph came to Dublin these days and, if there was ‘no room at the inn’, they might end up trying to construct some sort of rudimentary shelter out of discarded cardboard boxes. And I was thinking that it must’ve been desperately worrying for them, about to have a baby and no place to stay.

But in my case, since the crib figures were stored in cardboard boxes, I simply stacked up the boxes and stretched a roll of corrugated cardboard over the top to make a roof.  I added old newspapers for insulation (these happened to be from the property pages of the Irish Times, hee hee). But once I added the straw, it looked like a crib. Nice.

Well no, not nice. The flower arrangers weren’t happy. The church cleaners weren’t happy. The gardener wasn’t happy, and goodness knows who else wasn’t happy. Would you believe that they started a petition to have it removed from the church! (mmm, I wonder can one be excommunicated for building a bad crib?) But why weren’t they happy? I reckon it was the ivy, or should I say: the lack of ivy.  A traditional crib has ivy, lots of ivy, running up and down the walls, draping over the roof, all around where the shepherds stand, (or so they tell me) But I dunno, I would say that it’s the straw that makes the crib. Once I put the straw there, it just felt like a crib. I got this big bag of straw from a farm in South Kilkenny. It smelt lovely.

Do you think it needs ivy?

PS: I suppose this crib came about because I’ve been making art on the theme of Homelessness during the last few years. Check out and also



  1. scéal ar dóigh, n’fheadair cé a raibh scéal na Nollag caillte orthu san eachtra sin?
    Nollaig Shona duit!


  2. Eoin I love it . But those walls would get soggy in ireland.
    We have become so sanitized and materialistic over the years. Have you ever noticed that there is no midwife in the nativity scene? I have felt closer to Our Lady ever snce I noticed that . They delivered the Baby just the way your Uncle John and I delivered Marcella – All alone .
    people were shocked. Merry Christmas Charlotte.


    • Wow, I didn’t know that Charlotte. I knew of course that you lived out on the Indian Reservation and that your great book, “Letters from Doig River by Charlotte Groarke” is all about the life there. (available on amazon, folks) but it’s hard for us to imagine other people’s lives, isn’t it. thanks for your comment and Happy Christmas, eoin


  3. I think its wonderful Eoin, never heard of ivy on a crib but maybe thats an Irish tradition. The cardborad is so poignant about shelter too, I was reading just the other day how many more homeless there are now in Ireland. Our former Green politician Mary White is sleeping out on Sat night to raise money for homeless in Carlow and Kilkenny so I’m all for reminding people about those less fortunate and would have thought that others would have felt the same. Cheers Eoin!


    • I think Mary White did that before Cathy, didn’t she? Fair play to her. and Thanks for your comment. I enjoy reading your blog too, about the forest and I’m looking forward to hearing the follow up to your last post


  4. A cardboard crib is a controversy? What’s the matter with people? They (not sure who they are, but anyway) can rarely see the big picture and they argue instead over trifles. Perhaps, and I know it’s too late now, if you had added a bit of explanatory text to the crib, explaining your idea, they might have understood it and liked it better. But I think it’s great anyway (though I did have the benefit of your explanation). But the figurines look too expensive. I’m starting a petition….. 😉


    • Argh, not another petition. 🙂 Actually, there was an explanatory note – all about if the holy family arrived in Ireland today, how would they get on, what would they think etc. I thought that that would’ve helped but shur… Anyway, thanks for your comment, Cóilín


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