Fontanini Special Event Figures
65268, Special Event Figure (1995)
In the city of Jerusalem…at about the time Mary, mother of Jesus, was born…another girl came into the world. Her mother, a recent widow, was weak and frail. Her last strength was spent bearing the child she named Dominica. The baby was taken into the home of a neighbor, for there were no other relatives.
Realizing her fortune, Dominica worked hard for her adoptive family, using the only legacies her mother had left: a pail and a cloak. Scurrying to and from the well, Dominica gave of her heart to everyone. She dipped water for the old women and blushed when they said she would make a wonderful wife and mother. A husband? A family? The girl couldn’t imagine such happiness. Besides, she had promised to care for her new mother always.
One winter day, rumor of a holy birth in Bethlehem spread like wildfire. Everyone made plans to bring gifts to the Child. Having nothing to offer but her wish to be of service, Dominica set off for Bethlehem by foot with a hopeful heart. Along the way, she held the babies of weary mothers and offered her pail to water animals. Reaching the stable at last, Dominica caught her breath when she beheld Mary. “Why…she is no older than me!”
The two smiled at each other as Dominica’s eyes moved from the Child to a water urn warming on a hearth. “I have come with no gifts but my hands,” she said shyly. “May I be of help to you? Would you permit me to wash Him?” Mary was touched by the girl’s simple request, whispered so quietly, it could hardly be heard. She smiled and nodded as Dominica filled her bucket, then knelt before them. How gently she cared for Him! Mary saw great kindness and love in the girl’s heart. Finishing, Dominica spoke again. “Before I leave, may I offer my mother’s cloak to warm you?”
Mary’s smile was radiant. “Thank you…but no. You will need it to wrap your own child some day.” The words made Dominica’s heart race. My own child? Mary tucked the shawl around Dominica’s head. “Go home now. And pray for us.” Dominica nodded wordlessly and turned to leave. Her heart filled with joy as she repeated Mary’s words, “You will need it to wrap your own child some day.”
She whispered it over and over…all the way home.
65346, Special Event Figure (2000)
Leora awoke as the sun peeked over the horizon. She wasn't sure why she felt such joy and anticipation in her heart. She planned to spend the day helping her mother with chores as she always did. Yet something inside Leora told her that this day was going to be anything but ordinary.
She lit her lamp and headed downstairs where her mother had already started baking bread in the clay oven. "Good morning, Leora," her mother sang. "It's going to be a beautiful day. We have much work to do, but I know the Lord will shine his love and light upon us in our daily duties."
Leora smiled. The girl helped her mother finish baking the bread and turning the goat's milk into delicious cheese. Then she grabbed two clay pots to fetch water from the town well. In the afternoon, Leora filled all the oil lamps with olive oil in preparation for evening. The precious oil was their only source of light, in addition to being used for cooking and soothing skin balms.
At sunset, the workday ended and Leora's family gathered around the table for a meal that included the fresh bread and cheese. "Lord, we offer thanks to you for all the blessings you give our family," prayed Leora's father. And everyone joined in saying "Amen" before passing the food and talking about the day's activities.
"I heard some exciting news today," said Leora's father. "Word is spreading through the village that a baby was born in the Inn's stable." His voice took on a reverent quality as he stated, "This is not just any baby-but the Messiah!"
"Father," implored Leora, "can we please so see the baby? I just knew something wonderful happened today!"
"Yes, Leora. We will go see the baby."
Leora quickly put on her scarf and sheepskin cape, then lit her lamp. As they walked along the town's narrow streets, she noticed a bright light twinkling in the sky-brighter than any other she had seen. "What could it be?" she asked her father. "It's brighter than even my lamplight."
"A star that brilliant?" her father thought aloud. "It must be a beacon for the world to find the Messiah."
Father and daughter quickly walked through the winding streets until they came upon the stable. And there, just as the angel promised, was a baby boy asleep in a manger.
"It's true," Leora's father exclaimed. "The newborn King is here. Glory to God in the highest!"
Leora stared in awe at the baby boy and now understood why she felt such joy in her heart that morning. She held up her lamp to see the baby's peaceful face. "You are the true light of the world," she whispered. "May you always light my way."
65339, Special Event Figure (2001)
Lydia ran down the narrow cobblestone streets of Bethlehem, her sandal-clad feet kicking up dust along the way. She turned a corner and nearly tripped over an old woman who was resting against the side of a building.
"Dear woman, are you all right?" gasped Lydia. "I didn't see you there."
"Just tired, child, too tired to take another step!" replied the woman in a faint voice. "My husband and I journeyed so far, and now we cannot find a room to sleep in."
"I am sorry," Lydia replied sympathetically. "Bethlehem is filled with visitors for the census. I am helping my aunt and uncle, owners of the Inn. They can hardly keep enough food and water stocked for all their patrons, so I offered to help out."
Carefully, Lydia lowered her tray and jug to kneel next to the woman. "Have you had your evening meal yet?" she asked. "May I offer you some bread and a cool drink?"
"Thank you, but I must wait for my husband to return." Just as the woman finished speaking, an elderly man turned the corner. He was clearly out of breath from walking so quickly. The woman stood up and reached for her husband's hand.
"I could find no shelter!" the man despaired. "Even the stable behind the Inn is occupied by a young couple about to give birth to a child. Every bed in Bethlehem is spoken for tonight."
"Not every bed," thought Lydia. She examined the couple's worn sandals and their more careworn faces. She remembered the story of Job-"...but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler." (A)
"Come with me," Lydia said to the couple. "Our home is small, but we can make room for two more."
Lydia walked with the couple to her parents' home nearby. Her mother greeted the elderly man and woman as if they were family, and Lydia rushed off to deliver her goods to the Inn.
On the way home Lydia had an idea. Explaining the plight of the elderly travelers, Azzan the baker was quick to offer two extra loaves of bread, and the owner of the marketplace donated a platter of fruit. A generous neighbor added three salted fish to Lydia's basket.
Returning home, Lydia smiled and offered up her brimming basket. "Each person gave a little extra, and now there is enough for everyone," Lydia explained. "Let us give thanks to the Lord for his abundance, and thanks to our neighbors for their generosity."
A Job 31:32
65101, Special Event Figure (2002)
The sky was dark and foggy when Uri awoke. His mother Adah started a small fire in the hearth, warming the chilly air inside.
“Come, Uri, and eat a little before you and your father go to the fields,” Adah called.
The boy rolled his bedding into a neat bundle and stowed it in the corner of the room. Adah set out a dish of figs and a bowl of warmed milk. Uri ate as quickly as he could.
“Slow down, son,” said Judah, Uri’s father. “You eat as if it were your last meal! As long as the Lord is willing, we will always have enough to eat.”
“Of course, Father,” Uri replied. “I wanted to finish quickly so we can begin planting our fields.”
Judah nodded. “Good idea,” he declared. “Let’s get going.” Uri and Judah stood up and walked to the door.
“It’s still cold and damp outside,” Adah remarked. She removed her shawl and placed it around Uri’s shoulders. “Keep this snugly around you until the sun has a chance to warm you. I’ll be fine here, next to the fire.”
Uri grabbed his seed bag and followed his father outside. They walked to the field, discussing their work for that day.
“I plowed the western half of the field yesterday, so begin seeding there,” instructed Judah. “Be sure to scatter the seed evenly, like this.” Judah dug into Uri’s seed bag for a handful of wheat grains, and tossed it in an even semi-circle around his feet. Then Judah handed Uri a long thorn branch. “After a patch of grain is spread, use this branch to rake earth over it. And don’t forget to seed the edges and corners of the field.”
“Father, there’s something I don’t understand,” said Uri. “From each harvest we must save nearly half of the grain for seeding in the next season. With so little to spare, why do we plant to the edges of the field where we never reap? It seems like such a waste!”
Judah smiled. “Do you remember what the Lord said to Moses about harvesting?”
Uri closed his eyes and concentrated hard on remembering the Scripture verse. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.”(A)
“You shall leave them for the poor and the stranger,” Judah concluded. (B)
Uri opened his eyes and smiled. “Now I understand!” he exclaimed. “This is how we share the Lord’s bounty with others who are not as fortunate. Thanks to the Lord for blessing us so!”
A Leviticus 19:9
B Leviticus 19:10
65104, Special Event Figure (2004)
The campfire burned brightly in the dark night. Abner, a well-liked storyteller and trader by profession, visited with a group of people outside the town of Bethany. The firelight danced off his face and his eyes sparkled with excitement as he told the group what he had seen in the countryside just a few nights before.
"I was on my way back to Bethlehem from selling my wares in the marketplace of Jerusalem. I sold everything...even my cart! So I traveled light, with just a pack on my back and my walking stick. I took a shortcut through the hills, hoping to reach home sooner. The night was black as ink. I came upon a group of shepherds tending their flocks. Just as I was about to greet them, a bright light erupted in the sky. A brilliant angel appeared to us and said, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord'" (A)
"The shepherds stood in awe and in fear as the sky filled with angels. One of the shepherds cried tears of astonishment. A few others shook in terror. When the angels left, the shepherds decided to pack their belongings and go to find this newborn King."
Abner paused a moment, then continued. "I followed the shepherds to a small stable in Bethlehem. From what I have seen and heard, I firmly believe that our Savior, our Messiah, has arrived in the form of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The group sat quietly at first, startled and astounded by what the heard. Some wondered if Abner had lost his mind. Others responded with joy, for they had waited for many years to hear this news. Abner raised his hands to the heavens and said, "Thank you, dear Lord, that I am living to see this great day. I welcome your Son into our world, and promise to share the news of His birth. I am no longer a mere trader, but a humble servant who will carry His message far and wide.
A Luke 2:10-11
65110, Special Event Figure (2006)
Tabitha’s wings made fluttering sounds as she moved silently amidst the wheat field near the town of Bethlehem. On this particular morning, Tabitha judged the stalks with precision and her selections were meticulous. When she finished collecting a fair measure of stalks, even the field’s owner would have no idea that a kind angel had visited his crop and gathered just enough to fill her arms.
As quietly as she had arrived, Tabitha slipped back into the sky and headed east. It wasn’t difficult to spot her destination from on high: the sad little house was covered by a roof that was so damaged, sleeping residents most likely had as good a view of the night sky as those resting outside! Tabitha often wished she could find a way to fix the gaping hole, but her current mission was all she could do for now.
Gently stepping down to place her bounty on the home’s threshold, Tabitha turned to find the little girl sitting, as always, against the mud-covered wall.
“Shh…” the angel whispered, finger to her lips above a smile so wide the child couldn’t help but grin, too. “Thank you,” the little girl’s lips responded. The angel nodded. Having completed her mission she leaned down, kissing the child’s forehead so gently, the girl’s eyes closed and sleep came instantly.
Opening her eyes to the warm winter sun, the child found exactly what she had discovered upon awakening on so many other mornings: a pile of wheat- easily enough to feed her family for several days- neatly stacked at the home’s entryway.
“Tomorrow, I will stay awake long enough to see who has been leaving this gift,” the little girl promised aloud as she scooped it up and went inside with the bounty.
65112, Special Event Figure (2007)
It seemed everyone in Bethlehem knew Felix, a friendly outgoing child. Townspeople were especially happy to see him in the marketplace, as he was always eager to help carry their heavy purchases. Whenever anyone asked how they could say thank you, Felix’s answer was the same, “tell me a story.” Felix was such a delight that his requests were never refused no matter how busy someone might be. Sometimes the stories were long, sometimes short, sometimes entirely true and sometimes straight from someone’s imagination. He hung on every word and had a memory that allowed him to recall them all. Felix was also popular with the younger children. Barak and Adel loved Felix and his stories and whenever their mothers Levana and Rebekah were in the marketplace, they would seek out Felix and ask him the question he so often asked of others. Felix was always happy to share the stories he had heard with other children.
As the time of the Census dew near, the marketplace was busier than ever. Helping his friends carry their purchases was more challenging for Felix, as now he had to weave through very crowded streets. One day Felix met Mary and Joseph as they entered Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. Joseph was carrying a heavy bundle and Felix’s offer to help was graciously accepted. Felix felt so sorry for the couple as it was clear they had traveled a great distance and were very tired. He was happy when the innkeeper offered them his stable when there was no room in the inn. Once they reached the stable and were settled, Mary and Joseph said thank you and asked how they might shoe their appreciation for his help. Much to their surprise, Felix did not ask for water or a treat but rather requested a story. Mary told the story of how the angel had appeared to her and told her about the baby that was about to be born. Felix went on his way and though a great deal about what Mary had said. He loved the tale but wasn’t sure whether or not to believe it. The storyteller was indeed going to have a baby but was it possible that she had seen an angel that had foretold the child’s birth. The next day when Felix arrived at the marketplace, it seemed everyone was telling stories—stories of a star in the sky, of angels appearing to shepherds and of a Savior’s birth. At that moment, Felix knew the story Mary had told him was true and he raced to the Stable to see for himself the Newborn King.
65114, Special Event Figure (2008)
A look of intense concentration filled Emanuele’s face as he carved the final, delicate details of a Madonna. Perfecting the figurine, he relaxed and sat back in his chair to admire his handiwork. As always, completing a sculpture reminded him of the very first Nativity he carved so many years before. How he worked to save enough for his one-room shop: traveling across Europe, selling his wiggly paper mache spiders to delighted children, and learning from the masters of figurine making in every city.
Each night of that long journey he dreamed of returning to his home in Italy and starting his own business. As a faithful parishioner and member of a close-knit community, Emanuele could imagine nothing better than creating an enterprise that would help spread the joyous news of the Nativity. “And I’ve done it,” he thought. “I’ve founded a company that will live well beyond me. My dream of offering Nativities made by my family and neighbors will continue to light up the world.”
In the beginning it was hard work, though enjoyable. Carving the models, making the molds, pouring the plaster and painting the figurines filled the young Emanuele with happiness. When the people of Bagni di Lucca bought his figures and asked for more, he knew he was on his way to success. In time, Emanuele changed his medium to paper mache, preferring the lovely draped forms he could create. From the very beginning, a tiny spider mark adorned each figurine to remind Emanuele of the origin of his rapidly growing business.
Soon his sons Mario, Ugo, and Aldo were born, and raised in the family business. With such a busy life, Emanuele treasured a rare hour or two of leisure time, often writing poetry or volunteering at the church. As it grew, the House of Fontanini employed many relatives and neighbors throughout the gentle Tuscan countryside. It made Emanuele proud to provide a living for so many families from doing the good work of creating Nativities and sacred statues. Employees were treated like family, and many returned Emanuele’s caring and concern with lifetime loyalty to his company. A young Luccan artist, Elio Simonetti, worked side by side with Emanuele to sculpt figures in the fashion of Fontanini. Simonetti was soon designated Master Sculptor for his amazing artistry.
As the House of Fontanini expanded and time raced by, Emanuele’s grandchildren became involved in the family business too. The figurines evolved from paper mache to a new material, polymer. But as large as the House of Fontanini manufacturing facilities became, the process was still the same as for the first plaster figures: creating original sculptures, then molds, pouring the raw materials, then taking the molded figurines to homes nearby where local artists painted the pieces. The House of Fontanini created so many jobs over the decades that the Italian government awarded Emanuele the prestigious “Cavaliere del Lavoro” to honor him for his contribution to the economic well-being of Italy.
For seven decades Emanuele Fontanini created breathtaking Nativities that inspired people all over the world with their lovely sculptures and hand-painted finishes. Thanks to his vision, the fourth generation of the Fontanini family still produces these beautifully crafted Nativities. Emanuele’s legacy will live on, every time a family places the tiny Christ Child in His manger on Christmas Eve.
65118, Special Event Figure (2009)
Keturah came from a farming family. Her earliest memories were of trailing after her father as he tended to orchards of fig trees and apple trees. She had followed him so often and watched him so closely that she knew which of the trees often required additional pruning and which required extra water to yield fruit comparable to the other trees. She knew which trees had been planted in the previous years and which of this year's saplings had been successful and which ones had struggled. She had observed the trees transform their gifts from merely beautiful blossoms into the fruit that would sustain her family and other families in the community.
Harvest time was Keturah's favorite time of the year. Each year when it arrived Keturah was certain this would be the year she would finally be big enough to help gather the fruit. In the past, she had been sent to the marketplace with her mother where they offered the apples and figs for sale. As much as she enjoyed seeing other people and the excitement of the marketplace, Keturah longed to be in the orchard as the apples and figs were harvested. Keturah's hopes were dashed when she once again was sent to help in the marketplace. Her heart was heavy as she helped her mother but she comforted herself with a silent prayer that next year would be the one when she finally was able to help with the harvest. This year the marketplace was busier than ever. Keturah had never seen so many people. Keturah was happy when she saw her friend Felix and she knew he would have a sstory for her. She had spent a great deal of time listening to Felix's stories when she found herself far from her beloved orchard and amidst the chaos that was the marketplace. On this day when Keturah saw Felix, he had more stories than ever-stories of a star in the sky, of angels appearing to shepherds and of a Savior's birth. Felix told Keturah how he had met Mary and Joseph and had seen for himself this Newborn King. Felix told the stories with such conviction that Keturah knew in her heart that they were indeed true. In an instant, she found herself racing to the orchard. There she made a basket out of her shawl and into it she gathered the most beautiful pieces of fruit from the family's trees. Her father watched approvingly as wondered why he had not asked that Keturah help with the harvest; but before he could talk to her, Keturah had raced off. This time she made her way to the stable that Felix had described. Inside she found the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Kneeling before them she presented the gift of fruit and in that moment of peace she realized that her wish to be able to help in the harvest had finally come true.