The Origin Of Nativity Sets

Submitted by: Nathaniel Smith

Christmas is one of the most important Christian holidays of the year. The celebration of Christmas means the celebration of Jesus Christ s birth or nativity, and this unique event has been depicted by many generations since in the symbol of a nativity set. This symbol is in remembrance of God s love for man. A nativity scene is also known as a nativity creche.

The first description of the events that surrounded Christ s birth can be found in the Bible, particularly in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In these gospels, the story is told of Jesus discovered being born in a cattle trough or manger, and then being visited by shepherds and wise men also known as Magi who were guided by a bright star which shone directly over Jesus birthplace. An interesting fact is that Matthew’s narrative tells of Magi finding Jesus two years after his birth rather than on the exact day. The descriptions in Matthew and Luke have inspired the recreations of the nativity scene or nativity creche — static and live. Although some depictions contain minor adaptations, they all retain the essential beauty and love of the scene.


The first nativity scene was believed to have been created by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223 in Italy. It was a pantomime using live actors, and its purpose was to inspire worship in Christ. He introduced the Nativity scene after a trip to Egypt and Acre in 1220. Legend has it that St. Francis of Assisi once asked Giovanni Vellita, a villager of Greccio, to create a manger scene. Giovanni made a beautiful Nativity scene. The idea soon spread to Germany in the 1600’s. Soon after, many communities staged their own reenactments. This later evolved to become nativity sets, composed of still models made of materials such as wax, stone, wood, or ivory, dressed in rich clothes, and often set against beautiful landscapes. Saint Francis of Assisi is remembered today because of a monastic order he founded which bears his name, the Franciscans. The purpose of this order (also known as the Order of Friars Minor) was complete poverty for the monk and works of charity to the community. Francis alleviated suffering and taught the people about God. He was the famed saint who had an apparent miraculous control over animals, who traveled to the Middle East to convert the Muslims — offering to be thrown into the fire.

In more recent years, there are still pantomimes of the nativity done, but more commonly we see static nativity sets inside homes. The nativities are usually composed of small figurines, the most basic including Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus laying in the manger. Other sets feature a stable or cave, along with figurines of the shepherds, wise men, and even angels and animals. Other versions of nativity sets have variations, often without any Biblical support. These may include figures of the apostles, Satan, or Adam and Eve. Although these characters are Biblical they were not at the original scene of the nativity. Although these sets are not factually accurate, they are still representative of the nativity s significance in Christianity. Further and without scriptural basis, the ox and the donkey are present at the manger as well as other animals such as sheep, goats, and camels.

Many shops begin to sell nativity sets, such as St. Patrick’s Guild. These stores often carry a large and beautiful stock of figurines and ornaments, complete with everything one needs to set up the perfect nativity scene at home.

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About the Author: With a wide variety of different Nativity sets, you are sure to find the perfect scene for the outdoors or inside a Church at

. Give your Christmas celebration a deeper meaning with Nativity sets.


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