Nativity Sets – They come in all shapes and sizes. We place them throughout our house, under the tree, on tables, on the floor, on top our television sets, in our front yards, and in our public squares. They also come in all races and species from white, African American, Native American, snowmen, bears, marshmallows, and even dogs or cats. Individuals have created Lego Nativity Sets, and nativity sets using Star Wars and Star Trek figurines. They are created using a variety of materials – wood, resin, wax, styrofoam, chocolate, soap, paper, gingerbread, clay, and sausages. It seems humans are very creative when recreating the original Nativity scene. But do you know why we have nativity sets.
This year I decided to do a few crafts with my children surrounding The Nativity. I wanted to have some history to present to my children about when the first Nativity was displayed. We all know that the first Nativity was at the birth of Christ, but when did societies start to use, display and sell Nativity sets for general use?
It seems that St. Francis of Assisi is given the credit for creating the first Nativity scene in 1223. St. Francis was concerned that the focus of Christmas was not on the birth of Christ (much like we worry about today), and he set out to do something about that. St. Francis got permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger with an ox and a donkey. He used a cave in Greccio, a small Italian village about 60 miles from Rome. After placing straw in the cave, and using a wax figure of Jesus, St. Francis got local villagers to play the role of Mary and Joseph.
In the Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Saint Bonaventura, it is written that St. Francis read the story of the birth of Christ and then gave a sermon.
The man of God, filled with tender love, stood before the manger, bathed in tears, and overflowing with joy. Solemn Masses were celebrated over the manger, Francis, the Levite of Christ, chanting the Holy Gospel. Then he preached unto the folk standing round of the Birth of the King in poverty, calling Him, when he wished to name Him, the Child of Bethlehem, by reason of his tender love for Him.
Early Nativity scenes used live people. Based on the Biblical account of Luke, we know that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were present, but it does not list any specific animals. An angel appeared to the shepherds in a nearby field and told them where they could find The Savior. Most nativity scenes feature wise men, drummer boys, and numerous animals. We only know what the biblical account states:
After that first Nativity scene, churches in the region began recreating the Nativity each year, and gradually spread throughout Italy. Eventually the practice was adopted into homes and spread throughout the world. Today Christians still set up Nativity sets to remind ourselves and others of the true meaning of Christmas.
|Our Elf on the Shelf on Christmas Eve – Waiting for Jesus to arrive!|
One tradition we have in our house is that Jesus is not placed in the manger when our set is displayed. “Miraculously” he is found in the manger on Christmas morning. Some years the children have come down the steps and looked into the manger, and Jesus has forgotten to show up. Even though some years I have forgotten to place him in the manger, thankfully, he has never forgotten me.
THANK YOU to all my friends who sent me pictures of their Nativity Sets!