By now, homes have been decorated with magnificent Christmas ornaments and colorful lights. Some have also started lighting their homes at night. But there is one that should not be missed, the most important display that signifies the meaning of Christmas – the Nativity Scene.
Establishments, homes especially churches display the Nativity Scene or Manger Scene. Some display it indoors while some create a life-size display outdoors. In addition, some churches prepare a special presentation of the Manger Scene during the Christmas Eve mass or midnight mass. From Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, to the appearance of the Angel of the Lord, and finally the birth of Jesus in the manger are acted out by volunteers or a participating church group. Mary, Joseph, the three kings, and the shepherds are all present in the scene.
Clearly, we do know and understand why this is the most important Christmas display of all. However, do we all know who created the first Nativity Scene that we cherish?
The Vision of St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi devoted his life to God and taught people about God. To alleviate sufferings, he preached people and in turn, gained followers. However, living in the Middle Ages, people’s skills were limited and illiteracy was a dilemma. People could not read the Bible. With the vision and urge to bring people close to God, St. Francis along with his followers reenacted the Nativity Scene on Christmas Eve. What people could not read, they will understand with the help of a simple image or vision.
From then on, this image remains and continues to open the eyes of people. It doesn’t matter if you can read or not, a simple image makes a huge difference.
Nativity Sets Through the Years
Years and years have passed and various Nativity Sets have been created and sold to many. From small figurines to life-sized statues, people have created and displayed wonderful manger scenes. Last year, I posted How to Set Up Your Nativity Scene.
A quick recap:
- Inspect every figurine. If your display is an antique, handle them carefully.
- Clean the figurines using a soft cloth.
- Choose the safest spot.
We positioned our Nativity Scene in the same place as last year – the piano which is now right next to the Christmas tree. It is still located near the window and outside is where we always place our Christmas lantern. At night, the lantern and Christmas tree shines and lights the Nativity Scene.
But after decorating our living room, I discovered another Nativity Scene set in our old boxes. According to research:
“Christmas Manger Set,” USA, early 1940s. This cardboard tabletop Nativity was published by Concordia Publishing House from illustrations first produced by artist George Hinke. A base is provided with special tabs to hold the 17 lithographed figures upright; each tab is carefully labeled so that even a child can assemble it. Hinke was born in 1883 in Berlin, Germany, where he trained as a painter. He immigrated to the United States in 1923. Hinke specialized in religious subjects and nostalgic scenes of small-town American life. He is best remembered for his illustrations of children’s books such as Joseph’s Story, which tells the Nativity story from Joseph’s point of view, and Jolly Old Santa Claus. Collection of Glencairn Museum.
Anyway, my grandparents have this exact Manger Set made of cardboard. My grandmother could not remember the exact year she and my grandfather bought it. But she is sure that my uncle (her son) was not yet born when they purchased it. FYI, my uncle was born in 1968. Whatever year they bought it, the Manger Set is still in great condition.
The Nativity Scene, Manger Scene or crèche is a special display representing the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth. Take good care of your displays and remember to set them up during the holiday season. Christmas is just around the corner, so gather the family and set the lights, Christmas tree, and your Nativity Scene.
Here is a short video. Enjoy and