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Away in a Manger

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Cody: Isn't this weird? Mary and Joseph are traveling together...
Zack: On Christmas Eve...
Maddie: And there's no room for them in the inn...
Arwin: And a child is born.
Esteban: What a coincidence!
London: I don't get it.
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, "Christmas at the Tipton"

It's Christmas Eve and you are heavily pregnant. Luckily, your due date is still a few weeks away, leaving you free to go out and enjoy the celebrations ... but wait! Before the night is over you will (no matter how contrived it seems) end up in a stable, on the steps of a church or a similarly symbolic location, giving birth as the clock strikes midnight. And don't be surprised if there are shepherds nearby or a star overhead.

Basically, when a character gives birth on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day in a direct imitation of the Nativity as lined out in The Four Gospels. May be used as the high point of a Christmas Episode or the dramatic conclusion to a pregnancy storyline. Of course comes packaged with the entire Madonna Archetype. Someone is likely to deliver An Aesop about the True Meaning of Christmas.

Compare Messianic Archetype and Crucified Hero Shot for the other half of the Jesus-analog. Bonus points if the Star of Bethlehem and/or The Three Wise Men show up.


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  • One of The Punisher MAX series Christmas specials had a twisted take on the Nativity plot, featuring murder and mobsters. To elaborate: A mob boss emerges from his hiding place for the first time in years to get his pregnant wife to the hospital. A rival sends his mooks to kill them all (husband, wife and child). The mooks don't know which baby is which in the maternity ward, so one reluctantly kills them all. Then the couple show up, still pregnant. The remorseful mook's agonizing realization that he just murdered a roomful of babies for nothing is mercifully cut short (along with his life) by the Punisher. He leads the couple outside and into a stable to hide from the mobsters, and of course she goes into contractions. Frank delivers the baby (having had to do so once in Vietnam), and since this is the Punisher we're talking about, shoots the father (he was a mob boss, and not the friendly neighborhood version), then the mother (who had her daughter's boyfriend emasculated before killing him). Frank ends up leaving the baby on a church doorstep with a small fortune and a note asking the priest (who showed up at the beginning giving a drunken nihilistic rant) to raise the kid to believe in something.
  • In The Maze Agency #11, the heavily pregnant daughter of a mob boss and her husband go on the run on Christmas Eve, and Jen and Gabe go searching for them. They take refuge in a Greasy Spoon called The Star Diner. The woman goes into labour just as Jen locates her. Jen delivers the baby, browbeating the two mob thugs who were tailing her into helping her by fetching hot water and towels.

  • In the nuclear holocaust movie Threads, Ruth gives birth in a stable because a guard dog prevented her from reaching the nearby farmhouse. She is then seen in a mock nativity tableau, sitting around a fire with other survivors on Christmas Day.
  • The plot of The Day of the Beast hinges about The Antichrist being born on Christmas Eve. In Madrid. Under the KIO Towers.
  • Happens in the Steve Martin film Mixed Nuts.
  • In Monty Python's Life of Brian, Brian is born at the same time as Jesus, in the manger next door.
  • In Rabbit Test, Billy Crystal plays a pregnant man on the lam who eventually gives birth on Christmas Eve while his gypsy girlfriend and a wacko doctor attend him in a schoolbus in a junkyard. The girlfriend's three brothers are dressed in magi robes outside.
  • Happens at the end of the French comedy Les Rois Mages (The Three Kings).
  • The 1945 theatrical short Star in the Night used this as its main story. Three cowboys bearing gifts, a man named "Jose Santos" and his heavily pregnant wife "Maria" who have to sleep in the barn because there's no room at the motel...
  • Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon already embodies the Messianic Archetype in a number of ways, but Hiccup was born not just as a hiccup (small, sickly and weak), but prematurely as well, making his manger metaphorical. It's nothing short of a miracle that he survived to adulthood in those times, especially when his village was attacked by massive, flying monsters of varying shapes and sizes on a near-daily basis.
  • 3 Godfathers: Three bank robbers come across a woman giving birth in the desert, and have to take the baby when the mother dies. William likens the three of them to the Three Wise Men. It's Christmastime, and they're protecting a newborn baby. They wind up following a star. The star finally leads Robert and the baby to safety, in a town called New Jerusalem.
  • Sheitan takes place on Christmas Eve. Joseph's wife Marie is pregnant. And Joseph tells a local folktale about a child born at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve...
  • Divided We Fall: This film set in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia features a guy named Josef and his wife Marie. Marie is pregnant with a baby that isn't Josef's, but is rather a "son of David" (in this case, an actual Jewish man named David, whom Josef and Marie were hiding in their apartment). There are three visitors there to observe the birth (one Red Army soldier, one member of the Czech regular army, and one member of the Czech Resistance). And if that isn't obvious enough, earlier in the film Josef imagines his wife's face superimposed on the portrait of the Virgin Mary that hangs in the apartment.

  • Amazingly enough, averted in the Heliand, an early Saxon adaptation of the Gospels. The author was apparently reluctant to portray Mary and Joseph, both established as nobles, as going without shelter in their hometown, and so omits this detail from his work.
    • That and the fact that at the time, this trope was a great way to get the author in trouble for blasphemy.
  • In Mike Royko's humorous column "Mary and Joe: Chicago Style," the Nativity is set in 1960s Chicago, where there's no room for a poor couple from out of town in any of the city's social services. Joseph gets locked up for vagrancy, and Mary gets treated for postpartum delusion when she mentions who her baby's father is. Meanwhile, the Magi are mistaken for hippies and detained for illegal possession of gold and suspicious herbs.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Christmas episode of Cuckoo, Lorna finds out she's pregnant despite the fact that (as far as she knows) her husband has had a vasectomy. There's numerous Shout Outs to the bible story in the episode.
  • Alice in The Vicar of Dibley gave birth while on stage playing Mary in the village nativity play. Everybody thought it was an act. She had to be seen to by a vet.
    Alice: I'm confused. Have I, in fact, given birth to the Son of God?
    Geraldine: No, because for one thing, she's a girl, isn't she.
  • The last-ever BBC episode of Birds of a Feather had Tracey giving birth in an Irish stable on Christmas Eve.
  • The Thin Blue Line: In "Yuletide Spirit", a travelling hippie couple arrive in the station on Christmas Eve. Naturally, the woman is heavily pregnant and goes into labor.
  • The Royle Family had a Christmas Episode that used this trope.
  • In the episode of EastEnders broadcast on Christmas Day 1990, Disa O'Brien gave birth in an abandoned building.
  • Scrubs has Turk delivering a baby of a teenage runaway late on Christmas Eve, but who escapes the hospital just before going into labour - Turk finds her by following a star, and after the birth, everyone gathers round for a nice Christmas carol. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody's Christmas Episode, "Christmas at the Tipton", provides the page quote. The episode featured a couple named Mary and Joseph, and Mary gave birth in the Tipton elevator on Christmas Eve. And since the show takes place in a hotel, there was "no room at the inn". Everyone noticed the coincidence and hung a lampshade on it, except for London who didn't get it.
  • Happens in the "An Angel on the Roof" episode of Touched by an Angel. The episode has several groups of characters being brought together by the angels at a motel on Christmas Eve, including an illegal and pregnant immigrant couple. It climaxes not only with the wife giving birth, but with everyone staging a full "living Nativity" tableau that protects the couple from arrest and deportation (they were related to the motel owner; the angels manipulated circumstances to unite them).
  • Nightingales has a heavily pregnant woman named Mary arrive on Christmas Eve at the office block where the show is set. After assuring them she's not an allegory, she then proceeds to give birth to, among other things, a toaster, the Pope, Harold Pinter and a tandem.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger not only has this, the happy couple are named Jose (who gave up a life of crime in a gang and is now running a woodworking shop) and Maria. That's fairly subtle for this show.
  • Done in an episode of Moonlighting. It included a trio of FBI agents, all of them named Wiseman.
  • Newhart had an episode where it was Christmas Eve at the Stratford Inn and a guest ended up giving birth. Luckily for her, there happened to be a group of snowbound physicians staying there as well. In the tag, three brothers named "Weissman" showed up to check in.
    • Lampshade Hanging: Bob to Mary and "Joe": "Speaking for innkeepers everywhere, I think we owe you one."
  • Baby William's birth and mysterious conception on The X-Files holds allusions to the Jesus birth story, though it takes place in mid-May rather than December. After going through a pregnancy that shouldn't have physically been able to happen, Scully is whisked away to an abandoned town by fellow agent Monica Reyes to give birth to her son, who is wanted by Super Soldiers intent on kidnapping him. While going out for a cigarette, Monica spies a proverbial "Star of Bethlehem", which Mulder eventually uses to find them. At the end of the episode, the Lone Gunmen step in as the Three Wise Men, visiting Scully and the baby at her apartment bearing gifts. Not only a parallel to Jesus himself: prophecy put him as the saviour of the human race from impending alien invasion. Poor little guy.
  • Parodied in the Bottom episode "Holy", when Richie finds a baby left on the doorstep of the flat during their Christmas party. True to form, following a few similarities to the Nativity story he lets this go completely to his head. Convinced that he's the "Mother of God" and has maintained his virginity because he's "better than everyone else in the world", he threatens that the other characters will be sent to Hell by his 'husband'. It turns out it's the grandson of their landlord, who left him on the step because he couldn't be bothered dealing with the kid himself.
  • The season nine NCIS episode "Newborn King" put Gibbs in the role of Delivery Guy to a Marine lieutenant being pursued by mercenaries. And he pulled it off while Ziva fought and killed the last merc in the next room.
  • Subtly subverted/inverted in the seventh season Christmas Episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Robin finds out she's infertile and "loses" her imaginary future children.
  • Done in one episode of The Outer Limits (1995), with the baby literally being born in a manger, or a barn at least. The real kicker? Said baby is the clone of Jesus, and proceeds to save his parents from a pursuing Christian cult leader who wants to raise the child under his own strict control for his own purposes. The last shot of the episode is of the new family walking down a highway together and getting picked up by a passing trucker.
  • A variant happens in an episode of 2point4 Children when Rona finds an abandoned baby at Christmas.
  • In a Yet Another Christmas Carol episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, aside from her adventures regarding the first trope, Dr. Mike also has to contend with this one, as she has to assist the pregnant female half of a young couple who have run off and eloped to escape their disapproving families, and have conveniently taken refuge in a stable.
  • ER's Jing Mei Chen gives birth on Christmas Eve, to the child she intends to give up for adoption.
  • All My Children's Opal's late-in-life pregnancy culminates in a Christmas Eve delivery in her living room, with her husband Palmer playing Delivery Guy.
  • As the World Turns' Lily also gives birth on Christmas Eve, and symbolically names her daughter Natalie.
  • Downplayed (it's in a farmhouse rather than a stable, and the mother is a dog), but the key elements are there in the Christmas episode of All Creatures Great & Small (2020) when James and Helen (a wise man and a shepherd... or close enough, anyway) assist at the birth of puppies in the early hours of Christmas morning.
  • Variation in Bones. Itís not Christmas Eve, but Brennan is forced to stop at a hotel when she goes into labor. Thereís no room because of a convention and the manager directs her and Booth to a barn structure on the property where Christine is born.

  • Adventures in Odyssey "Unto Us a Child in Born", in which Mary Barclay, playing Mary in a live radio play of the Nativity has to be rushed to the hospital.

  • In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), the Nativity is sent up anachronistically, like many other Bible stories included in the play. One of the Wise Men quips that it's tough luck for a child receiving presents that his birthday falls on Christmas. When Jesus is finally born, they sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to him.


    Western Animation