Famous & Noteworthy Nativity Scenes

The nativity scene is the most well-known display in the entirety of the world. It illustrates the birth of Jesus according to the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Although all nativity scenes have their own unique elements all are trying to accomplish the same mission. To properly embrace and depict the birth of our Lord and Savior.

The first known nativity scene dates back to 1223. This first scene was developed in a cave near Greccio, Italy. Saint Francis of Assisi was known to be the first individual to come up with a “living” nativity scene. Saint Francis was concerned that people were overlooking the true meaning of Christmas. It was simply not about the giving of gifts, but more importantly about the birth of Jesus. He was inspired and motivated because of his opportunity to visit the Holy Land where he had observed where Jesus was born. This initial nativity scene catapulted the development and orchestration of numerous displays to come.

On December 4th, 2011 a new world record was set. The most people ever present in a nativity scene occurred at the Welton Baptist Church. This church is located in Midsomer Norton, UK and contained 788 participants in their nativity scene. Many of the attendees to the Welton Baptist church that day were dressed as shepherds. The previous record for the number of people in a nativity scene was 567. This record was initiated by the National Union of Pro Loco in Sassi di Matera, Italy.

Buitrago-SpainThe country of Spain is potentially the most well-known collective display of nativity scenes. More specifically, live nativity scenes. In a live nativity scene, there are real people, animals, produce, and anything else that could be used to create a magical spectacle. Dating back to 1988 the town of Buitrago in Madrid creates a nativity scene that utilizes over 200 actors. It is the live nature of the nativity scene that exemplifies pure beauty and emotion from the crowds on a yearly basis. Arcos de la Frontera in Cadiz is another location where the nativity scene is a staple of the environment. The streets are beautifully aligned with palm leaves to illustrate symbolism and a phenomenal site for all to witness.

Valladolid in Castile-León also displays prominent living nativity scenes. It is said that one of the best performances to see is the Cabezón de Pisuerga. This nativity scene displays the essence of going back in time and being able to truly feel like one is indeed right there. Occupational positions are displayed as well to add ambience to the presentation. These positions include carpenters, blacksmiths, washer women, and millers.

Another fantastic Spanish nativity scene tradition is the crib in Bàscara. The crib in Bascara originated in 1973. The presentation includes caves, drinking fountains, and vegetation. There are over 300 actors in this presentation and they literally take over the entire town. The objective is to make the town look like Palestine over 2000 years ago. A final awesome scene to witness is based out of Sangüesa. This setting is not like a normal living nativity scene, it takes place on the 6th of January every year. It is actually an open area drama that was created in verse dating back to 1900. It specifically depicts the arrival of the three kings coming to worship the baby Jesus. It becomes quite clear that the country of Spain has a rich and diverse history in relation to all the variations of nativity scenes.

A final famous nativity scene was presented at the Vatican in 2009. The actual cost of the nativity scene was $717,000 which was one of the topics involved in the vatileaks scandal. This is potentially one of the most expensive displays ever created as it relates to nativity scenes. In recent years the Vatican again made headlines when it came to their nativity scene due to Pope Benedict’s most recent book “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives” where Benedict noted that there is no biblical reference to animals in the manger at the time of Jesus’ birth but none the less concluded in the book that “No representation of the crib is complete without the ox and the ass.”

In closing, it is easy to see the incredible array of nativity scenes displayed around the world. Although no two scenes are exact, they all attempt to portray the same message. The everlasting attempt of reminding us all of the birth of our Lord and Savior. The nativity scene will always be a distinctive part of our worlds history for eternity.


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