This evening, Christmas Eve, I'll have one of our nativity scenes in church, a crocheted version given to us in Newfoundland nearly 40 years ago. Through the years we've invited people to bring their nativities for display and perusal following worship. Folk do so with pride and love, and in every size and style imaginable.
We're told that the first living nativity was created by Francis of Assisi in the early 12th century and the scene complete with animals inspired the sculptural versions we have. The earliest carved figures we know of are the ones in the grotto of a church in Rome (below), created in the late 13th century.
Apparently there are so many in the city of Rome that there are dedicated Manger Hoppers, people who visit a number of locations each year. There is even an Italian Friends of the Nativity Scene Association. The association’s museum has more than 3,000 scenes from around the world. Some of the nativities in Rome are very elaborate, such as the one at the top of this blog. St. Peter's basilica square has its own depiction each year.
Really, it's just lovely that the story of Christ's birth is told in this way in so many locations through countless generations.
Do you have a nativity you've set up through the years? We're about to pass on the crocheted version to our grandchildren. Do you have a set shared from one generation to the next?