Many think of Christmas as a time for Santa Claus, Christmas tree ornaments, and tinsel. But one major sign of Christmas appreciated by Christians around the world are Nativity Scenes.
Nativity Scenes are often used as decoration, but can also be performed live. Here, you can read about both the history of the Nativity along with ways to incorporate the scene into your Christmas festivities.
A Traditional Nativity Scene
While most modern nativity scenes, whether live performances or tabletop sets, display all of the characters at one time, this is not how nativities began. Traditional nativity scenes followed the teachings of the gospels of Matthew and Luke with characters making appearances in this order:
The scene starts with Mary and Joseph along with two animals, an ox and a donkey.
On December 24, baby Jesus is laid in the manger.
Shepherds are added the following day.
In early January, wise men are placed at the nativity. As is written in the Bible, the wise men arrived much later and would not be present with the shepherds.
In some countries even today, nativity scenes are left up until early February.
History of Nativity Scenes
Inspired by the gospels of Matthew and Luke, nativity scenes depict the birth of Jesus Christ. They have played a symbolic role in the lives of Christians for centuries, but St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first living version played out in Rome in 1224. These early nativities presented a simple depiction of the miracle birth with only a manger, an ox and a donkey.
Commemorate Christmas with a Nativity Scene
Consider hosting a casual get-together where commemorating the nativity is the main event. Plan your party for the same night that a live nativity scene takes place. Many church groups perform live nativities throughout the month of December. This is a great opportunity to experience the real meaning of Christmas away from the other sights and sounds of a bustling holiday season.
Invite a small group of family and friends over to your place for a light supper before the event. Serve a meal of appetizers or simple sandwiches.
Go as a group to see the live nativity scene. In some cases, these nativities are set up as walk-through events depicting individual scenes surrounding Jesus's birth.
Afterwards, return to your house to serve dessert and coffee. Use this time to reflect on what the nativity scene means to your Christmas celebration.