Nativity Scenes did NOT originate from the Bible, where the original Christmas story resides. It was the humble Francis of Assisi who, while living in Greccio Italy at the time (1223 AD), decided to bring the most beautiful account in Creation to the average person.
In those days, the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was only celebrated by Mass in Latin, which only the church hierarchy could understand. An obviously inspired Francis went around Greccio borrowing animals and obtaining free donations of hay. He then created a manger scene, out of the Bible passages of Mary giving birth to Lord Jesus in Bethlehem, in a stable, since there was no room in any Inn, in that small town of about 500 in Bethlehem.
After he set up the first Nativity Scene with LIVE animals and wax-figured Mary, Joseph and Jesus, Francis began telling the story of the Great Birth from the Bible and preached sermons on it. It was the first time the people understood how the Savior was born and why He came. From historical accounts, many came to Faith that night. Hymns were song and Psalms read out loud as Francis of Assisi wept openly in rejoicing.
Many in Italy heard about this first Nativity Scene of all time, and it spread like wildfire. The first Nativities were almost all live, with live animals, since farming and agrarian economies still existed in the Middle Ages. Today, around the world, each culture has its own unique rich take on the Birth of the Christ child in the manger. Nativity sets abound around the world, in so many uniquely exquisite forms, it makes the heart smile with gladness.
Each year, the local Franciscan order puts on a "Nativity Scene Festival" and invites the entire populace to orderly submit their own favorite Nativity Scene, regardless of where in the world it was obtained! Protestants and Catholics and Christ followers of all ages and backgrounds contribute well-crafted and simply marvelous pieces from just about every corner of the world!! Many from all over, bring in their sets, acquired either through their own personal travels or even estate auctions, and share with thousands over a three day period at the Franciscan center, from all walks of life. It is one of the most beautiful events of the local Springfield, Illinois Christmas season.
(Here is the site of this annual event: www.chiaracenter.org)
These are just a small sample of those 131 Nativity sets from around God's Creation.
|FIRST IN NATION, IL. STATE CAPITOL SET (2008)|
MARBLE-GLAZED SET WAS MADE IN ITALY
|From Puerto Rico|
|Nativity Scene made from olive wood, directly from Bethlehem in the Holy Land|
|Chinese Nativity Scene|
|Italian Renaissance piece|
|Authentic Native American Nativity Scene|
|Created from a South African Gourd|
|FROM GRECCIO, ITALY - |
HOME OF THE FIRST NATIVITY SET
|And of course - a Charlie Brown Christmas (USA)|
|FROM THE PERUVIAN AMAZON RAIN FOREST|
|The Szopka (Nativity) From Krakow, Poland|