Obama top wise man in Naples nativity figures

Thu Dec 11, 2008 10:46am EST
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NAPLES (Reuters Life!) - President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are appearing in Italian nativity scenes this year, alongside the baby Jesus and wise men, according to Naples craftsmen selling figurines in the run-up to Christmas.

The production of handmade figurines for nativity scenes is big business in this southern Italian city and has been for centuries.

But beyond the thousands of angel, sheep, Mary and Joseph figures filling market stalls before Christmas, craftsmen say Obama has become a top seller.

"The ones we are selling the most of are those of Barack Obama, America's new president, along with his wife Michelle," said craftsman Genny Di Virgilio.

Tradition requires that the nativity scene be built up over time until Christmas Eve, when baby Jesus is put in the manger as the very last element of the display.

As always, figurine-makers provide a chance to choose a more light-hearted approach for the scene providing replicas of personalities who have made the news during the last year.

Beyond Obama, they are also selling figurines of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni and even Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

While cherished by many, some people say the arrival of celebrity figurines spoils the traditional sense of Christmas.

One nun, Angelica, scoffed at what she called a "cartoon version of a nativity scene."   Continued...

<p>President-elect Barack Obama meets with governors during a bipartisan meeting with members of the National Governors Association at Congress Hall in Independence Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 2, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes</p>