Nativity Scene Lantern

The rather curious name for this lantern stems from the fact that, every Christmas without fail, the lantern was used to illuminate an indoor Nativity Scene at my primary school, with a Wendy House being used as a makeshift stable. Naturally, with my eye for all things illuminated commencing at a very early age, I always used to look forward to the lantern making its annual appearance every December, and so, when the lantern finally fell into disuse in more recent times, I was keen for it to be saved, if only for posterity.


The lantern is of a wooden construction, and a piece of smoked glass is fitted in all four vertical sides. The patterning on each side is reminiscent of a Gothic arch.


The top of the lantern is open, save for a mounting bracket to support the lampholder. The lampholder itself is made by GEC and appears to be made out of Bakelite. I cannot remember how the lantern used to be suspended in the scene, but I would guess that it was simply supported by the lamp supply cable.


A blue 40 W Crompton festoon lamp was fitted in the lantern - this provided a subtle, indirect glow.


With the lantern switched on, an almost indigo light output is produced. The outline of the lamp can be seen behind the glass panels.


The lamp itself is believed to date to October 1994, but given the limited amount of time it would have been used each year, probably hasn't clocked up a vast number of hours in the following years. The UK-made Crompton lamps were renowned for their longevity; indeed, I have a couple of 40 W reflector lamps that saw over ten years' use (operating at least two hours daily) before I decided to retire them in 2011.


As I was unhappy at the lamp supply cable being used to support the entire lantern, I decided that some minor modifications to the lantern body would be required, whilst still being mindful that I wanted to keep the lantern as original as possible. In the end, four cup hooks were fitted in the top of the lantern (one in each corner). During this process, the glass panels (and lamp) were removed and set aside for cleaning.


The panels were carefully refitted into the lantern after their cleaning.


Four brass chains were then attached to the hooks. I had originally planned to use chains finished in "aged brass" or bronze (to make them more in-keeping with the dark finish of the wooden lantern frame); however, the brass chains provided better camouflage of the supply cable. The whole assembly was then attached to a convenient wrought iron bracket that had mysteriously appeared on my wall, and the supply cable fed through the links of one of the chains. The lantern was then powered up once again, and the same relaxing glow of the lamp returned.


Testing the lantern with my energy monitoring device revealed the following results:

Test Voltage (V) Current being drawn at full power (A) Measured wattage (W) Apparent Power (VA) Frequency (Hz) Power Factor True Power (W) Difference (W) Percentage Difference
240.9 0.14 33 34 49.8 1.00 33.73 -6.27 15.69

Shortly before these tests were carried out, the supply voltage was at a very low 208V for a few minutes, before then increasing to 225V, and finally up to around 240V. The lamp, although dim anyway thanks to the blue coating, was noticeably dimmer (as you might expect) when the voltage was at its lowest.

Not long after the lantern was acquired, the following photograph dating from 1996 (revealing it in its 'original' location) was found. A couple of lengths of string appear to have been used to secure the lantern to the ceiling of the 'stable'.


Notice that something (or 'someone'!) rather important is missing from the scene - it was a tradition at the school to only complete the scene on the last day of term (in lieu of Christmas Day and the Epiphany).


Another seasoned perennial in the selection of Christmas decorations at school were a set of 'Caroling [U.S. English] Christmas Bells' that chimed a variety of well-known Christmas songs and carols on a continuous loop throughout the day, or at least, until they were turned off after becoming a bit repetitive! Having acquired my own set in 2016, they were installed as part of my household decorations that year. The video below features their entire repertoire (around 40 minutes), with the visuals provided by the Nativity Scene Lantern.





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