Traditional Nativity scenes get these wrong every. Single. Time.
1. Three words: Way more shit.
If a Nativity scene is going to accurately reflect what a barn birth is all about, it’s going to have to go heavy on the fake shit. Cow pies, rat turds, sheep pies, cat feces…Anyone who’s actually been there can tell you, there’s shit everywhere in a real-world barn birth, and it’s the most obvious detail that Nativity scenes miss.
2. There should be rabbit carcasses scattered around the Virgin Mary to keep the feral cats from trying to make off with the placenta.
The skinned rabbit carcasses you need to spread around to distract nasty, mangy cats from playing umbilical-cord tug-of-war with the mother are another key detail of real-life barn births that is sadly lacking in Nativity scenes. A more honest depiction would show a circle of tainted rabbit carcasses around the Virgin Mary and a group of cats mange-stricken with bald spots and missing ears hissing at one another while dragging the carcasses off to the outhouse to devour them.
3. The sheep should be gazing lovingly at all the hay, not the newborn baby Jesus.
Hate to burst your bubble, but sheep don’t give two shits about babies. They care about one thing, and one thing only, and that thing is hay. And there’s plenty of hay in a barn. Yet in every Nativity scene you see the sheep are all focused on the Christ child like he’s some sort of big pile of hay. Yeah, no. But nice try.
4. You’ve got to cover the baby Jesus with an umbrella so that barn pigeons don’t shit all over him.
In a real barn birth, if you don’t have that baby covered with an umbrella or a piece of plywood or something, it’s going to be covered in pigeon shit in about, oh, three seconds. No matter how many pigeons you shoot with a pellet rifle in preparation for the birth, there are always going to be enough of the birds left to coat that baby with a layer of shit before it’s even fully crowned.
5. In a real barn birth, the cows have to be put down with a bolt gun so they don’t trample the mother during labor.
This is just one of the many brutal aspects of farm life that Nativity scenes choose to conveniently ignore in their cleaned-up, Disneyland version of what it’s like to give birth in a barn. A typical Holstein cow weighs in at 1,300 pounds, and that’s 1,300 pounds you don’t wan’t anywhere near you when you’re laying on a cold barn floor in December trying to push out a baby and get the hell out of there. Putting the cow down with a bolt gun is as fast and humane of a way as any, but you still won’t be seeing Nativity scenes with piles of cows with crushed foreheads any time soon.
6. The angels would get all wrapped up in the milking equipment when they fly in.
A working barn has all sorts of tubing strung everywhere to transport the milk from the cows to the milk tank, and it doesn’t exactly make for easy flying. Any angels visiting a Christ child in a barn would be completely tangled up in a mess of milk-spraying tubes pretty much immediately.
7. If the barn isn’t properly limed, expect that kid to last three days, tops, before Barn Brain sets in.
A barn needs to be properly disinfected with a fresh dusting of barn lime, or that kid’s going to catch Barn Brain almost immediately. Nativity scenes never show a thick white layer of powdered lime covering every exposed surface in the entire barn, yet you don’t see many depictions of Christ with the enormous, bright-blue head indicative of a newborn stricken with Barn Brain. He must have avoided Barn Brain by a sheer miracle. Sure.
8. The closest thing to a “wise man” you can expect to show up is your neighbor’s dim son wandering into the barn to try to sell the laboring mother raccoon pelts.
There aren’t many folks just wandering around in the country in December sticking their noses into other people’s barns, save chicken thieves and your neighbors’ dim sons, neither of which are exactly “wise.” Where Nativity scenes got the idea that camel-riding shepherds randomly drop by to present your baby gifts after you give birth in a barn is a complete mystery. A Nativity scene including a statue of a dim-looking boy trying to sell the Virgin Mary coon pelts would be a much more realistic depiction of a barn birth than the statues of wise men dropping off Frankincense and myrrh. Once you see that, it gets pretty hard to suspend your disbelief.