For centuries, people have included nativity scenes, also called creches or manger scenes, as an important part of their Christmas decorations. During this time of year, many people hold an affinity in their hearts for illustrations of the birth of Jesus Christ. These portrayals often include figures of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi, and the newborn Jesus in a stable.
If you are looking for a nativity scene for your christmas decoration then Holyart, a religious shop known for their high-quality nativity scenes is the best place to get it from. But what is the history of manger scenes, and how they became such a beloved Christmas custom?
Nativity scenes have been around since the early days of Christianity. The first nativity scene ever recorded is said to have been created by St. Francis of Assisi, a saint known for his love of animals and the environment. He lived during the 13th century. St. Francis, who had a strong spiritual connection and a deep appreciation for nature, wanted to make the story of Jesus’ humble birth more relatable and understandable for people. To achieve this, he created a physical depiction of the nativity scene.
The Popularity in Europe
The idea for St. Francis’s nativity scene became very popular and spread across Europe. Monasteries and churches all over the continent adopted the tradition, adding their own unique touches and including more intricate details and figurines. During the 16th century, it became quite common for people to have nativity scenes in their homes.
The Baroque Era and Elaborate Creches
In the 17th and 18th centuries, during the Baroque era, artists took nativity scenes to a whole new level of artistic expression. Elaborate nurseries gained popularity among European royalty and the wealthy. The scenes showcased stunning figurines, beautiful backdrops, and exquisite details. They were often crafted from luxurious materials such as porcelain, ivory, gold, and silver. The luxury nativity scenes were not just about showing devotion but also about displaying wealth and social status.
Different Cultures and Nativity Scenes
Nativity scenes can be found in various cultures and are not exclusive to Western Christianity. Numerous cultures worldwide have taken the tradition and made it their own, incorporating their unique customs and beliefs. In Mexico, nativity scenes commonly feature shepherds and angels wearing traditional indigenous clothing. In the Philippines, it’s common to come across nativity scenes beautifully decorated with local plants and animals, giving them a distinct Filipino touch.
Modern Day Scenes
Nowadays, there is an excellent variety of styles for nativity scenes. They are made from different materials like wood, clay, and fabric. Some are as basic as placing a few figurines under a Christmas tree, whereas others are more elaborate and life-sized, attracting visitors from far away. Lots of families have their own nativity scenes that have been handed down from generation to generation. But some families like making their own DIY versions that show off their tastes and styles.
Meaning and Importance in a Spiritual Sense
The birth of Jesus Christ, who came into the world to offer redemption and love, is the central message of Christmas, and nativity scenes serve as an artistic expression of this. Both the modesty of the Holy Family and the miraculousness of Christ’s birth are highlighted. Putting up a nativity scene is a way to honour the religious significance of Christmas and to encourage the virtues of generosity, modesty, and community.
Originally shown by St. Francis in a tiny Italian town, nativity scenes have since grown into a beloved holiday tradition celebrated by millions. Whether they are strictly traditional or have been altered for a specific culture, these scenes never fail to move and teach us something about the genuine spirit of Christmas. They are a living reminder of the power of faith, art, and narrative to pass on the Nativity story from one generation to the next, and they continue to play an essential part in our Christmas celebrations.