I kiss a rosary before I pray, and the Bible before I read it, but I do not worship those items.
However, the idea of someone passing around the baby Jesus doll in the church and asking people to kiss it bothers me for a different reason. We are not “supposed to” kiss a baby doll or statue. We might be moved to do so however.
I knew a little girl who kissed statues and talked with them. It was sweet and it indicated a very close relationship developing with her and God in prayer. She might have seen her mom or grandma do the same but she was never instructed to this manner of devotion. It was her own sweet and private way and she must never teach a workshop on this when she grows up.
My mother, a teacher, loved to pass a Baby Jesus doll around her classroom during Advent. She would talk to the children about the smallness of a baby and the power of God. She never told them what to do except to hold the doll like a baby and think about the newborn Christ.
But your experience sounds strange and I don’t blame you for slipping away. It feels like a false effort to create deep intimacy with the Lord. It’s kind of like forcing someone to feel affection.
I do abhor some of the non-traditional, ritual-making practices that go on in certain parishes. We already have such beautiful traditions. It is better to bring people to prayer, and Eucharist, and to Exposition of the Sacrament. Teach us about the sacramentals, Stations of the Cross, walk us up to the nativity scene and teach us some beautiful novena prayers, but don’t ram personal expressions into a one-size-fits-all group. Something about it just feels so “Let’s close our eyes and drink the Kool-aid.”
I’m sorry, I just have a gut reaction against what you observed and I would have left, too.