Several years ago, I began to collect replicas of the Nativity. I have added to my collection each and every year, and I usually add at least one or two nativities every Christmas season. I love them. In fact, I even keep one or two up year round to remind me of the importance of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. They add a special spirit to our home and remind us that we can have the feeling of Christmas all year instead of just once per year.
Origin of the Nativity
In 1220, the world was first introduced to a three dimensional nativity by St. Francis of Assisi. It is believed that he used live animals and humans in his set. The idea of depicting the scene of the Nativity soon found its way to Germany during the 1600’s. Protestants and Catholics put these scenes up in their homes, Churches and even in their parks. In many churches and homes, the baby Jesus is actually left out of the scene until Christmas day. This represents the fact that the Savior was not born yet. However, in the United States, it is common practice for the entire Nativity to be displayed all at once.
Traditions of the Nativity
There are many different traditions found across the world when displaying Nativities. In Spain, indoor nativities are set up and are monumental in their size. They use literally thousands of kilos of sand, cork and stone. There are also lights, streams and music added to the display. I was fortunate to be shown one of these amazing nativities during my mission to Spain. My companion and I were allowed into the private chambers of the local Nuns to see and appreciate their display of the Nativity. This was a very special thing and I know we were only invited because we had been providing service with this particular group of Nuns in a soup kitchen.
In Mexico and several countries in Central America, they do not set up their nativities until December 16. In Columbia, they set them up on December 8. The baby Jesus is not added to the manger scene until December 24. A few days after Christmas, the shepherds are added to the scene. On January 6, the three Wiseman are then added as this is also known as Día de los Reyes, or Three King’s Day. The nativity scenes are usually left up until February 2, which is the end of the Epiphany.
Make Your Own Nativity
There are several ways that you can make a Nativity for your home. It can be as complex or as simple as you desire. I particularly like the one that is provided in The Friend Magazine this month. I have included a link for you at the bottom. Click on the December 2008 Friend magazine and then on the Table of Contents page, click on the article titled, "The Wondrous Nativity." I would probably recommend laminating the pieces in order to extend the longevity so that you can enjoy it for years to come. In fact, we will be doing this to our own this week. This will make a great Family Home Evening project. Perhaps you will even want to print enough copies so that each and every person in the family can have their own nativity. Merry Christmas!