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One in a Tractor, One in a Car, One in a Scooter…

At this time of year, if you have children, attend church or both, you are likely to see at least one nativity play – you know the sort of thing: kids (and sometimes adults) dressed up in bathrobes, sandals and tea towels all standing around a girl with a blue sheet holding a baby doll while a rather embarrassed boy stands nearby with a fake beard and another bathrobe-and-tea towel costume. If you’re lucky, you get something done by adults that usually involves a live donkey and a real baby. And you sometimes get people trying to freshen the traditional story up by adding a modern twist to it – I’ve seen at least two “Mary and Joseph use social media/the internet” YouTube clips.

One thing that hasn’t been done – probably because it’s a bit hard to organise – is an update of the transport options. What would be the modern day equivalent of the camel, the ox and the donkey? (Not that any of these are actually mentioned in the Biblical account. The presence of the ox and the donkey (formerly known as an ass) is deduced by the presence of an animal’s feed box complete with hay to make a makeshift baby’s bed, while the magi needed something for to make the trip from the Iran/Afghanistan/Pakistan sort of area to Israel. For all we know, Mary and Joseph may have made the trip on foot or taken an ox-cart.)

So, if you were updating the forms of transport that were possible back in 10BC to 6 AD (the range of dates that the original Christmas happened in), what are your possibilities? Apart from the Three Kings of Orient who were, as every cheeky kid sings, “one in a tractor, one in a car, one in a scooter tooting his hooter, following yonder star.”

Features: Cheap to acquire, cheap to feed, small and surprisingly strong for the size. Best suited to smaller families.
Modern equivalent: A Peugeot hatchback or some other small and frugal hatchback (Suzuki Swift, Mini Cooper, VW Beetle, etc.).

Ox/Bullock Cart:
Features: Good towing power, a bit thirstier than the donkey, reliable but not much of a speedster. Can take large loads.
Modern equivalent: A trade van or ute, such as the Toyota Hilux or the Ford Transit. Could also be replaced by an MPV such as the Mitsubishi Grandis or the Honda Odyssey.

Features: Tough, big and can handle rough terrain.
Modern equivalent: A real bush-bashing 4×4. The Mistubishi Pajero, with its past performance in the Dakar Rally, would have to be a serious contender, given the desert that the Magi had to cross, with Jeeps, Nissan Patrols and Land Rovers being other possibilities.

Horse (probably in a chariot):
Features: Fast, luxurious and sporty. Probably used (in the Nativity play context) by King Herod and/or Roman soldiers.
Modern equivalent: A Porsche Boxter or 911, or a nippy Alfa Romeo speedster.
Features: Not quite as upmarket as the horse but not as working-class as the donkey. Has a reasonable turn of speed when needed.
Modern equivalent: Any good luxury executive saloon. Think BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.
Alternative features: A mule is, of course, a hybrid between a horse and a donkey.
Alternative Modern equivalent: A hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius or Hybrid Camry.

Elephant (which is possible, given the Persian origins of the Magi, but not likely):
Features: exotic, large and expensive to feed, with military overtones.
Modern equivalent: Hummer.