Tag Archives: Nativity Scene

Kitchy crèches revisited

December 22, 2015



A couple of kitchy crèches spontaneously appeared in our offices recently (something about a dare) and reminded me it’s been a while since this topic has been visited.

Here are the local offenders:


And the original blog I came across in 2011, whyismarko. He’s up to 62:

The 62 Worst and Weirdest Nativities (the 2015 revised list!)



From a very young age I have always loved Nativity scenes. I had my own as a child that featured small wood-carved painted figures that I set up and took down through Advents past. One can be found on display in my dining room year round and somewhere in storage is a classic crèche that has been in the family for years and is safely waiting for a slightly less rambunctious household in which to be displayed. Maybe next year.

The beauty of the Nativity story told in statuary was something that I didn’t think could be done wrong. And then I came across this blog…

27 worst nativity sets: the annual, growing list!

Truth be told, there is one in the collection that I kind of like (Hint – It’s not the one made of meat).


If you have pictures of beautiful crèches out there to offset these, please link them in the comments.

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Where did the Nativity scene come from?

December 22, 2011


If you’ve set up a Nativity scene in your home, maybe the “supporting characters” you’ve arranged in the stable are waiting for you to lay the Star of the show–the baby Jesus–in the manger on Christmas Eve. Whether it’s under your tree, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or full of lights in your yard, a movable model of the Incarnation not only completes the Christmas decor, but offers a tangible means for reflecting on the source of our joy this season.

The number of Nativity scenes seems to be limited only by the imagination. As I started seeing the familiar figures, Mary Joseph, Jesus, the Wisemen … in different settings, I wondered about the origin of these scenes which are so much a part of our holy celebration.

Known as a creche in French or presepio in Italian, the Nativity scene represents a combination of passages from Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. Scripture says nothing about the shepherds, the Magi and the animals all gathered together at the same time with the Holy Family.

The first Nativity scene

But Christians began depicting the Nativity this way as early the 2nd century with frescos in the Roman catacombs.

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi created the first living Nativity scene in a cave near Greccio, Italy, at midnight Mass in an effort to make Christmas more meaningful for the townspeople. The scene contained the manger and live animals but not the figure of Mary, Joseph or Jesus.

St. Bonaventure writes about the event in his biography of St. Francis:

Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was changed by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King, and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.

It is said that miracles occurred after St. Francis’ Nativity scene, including a vision of the Christ child in the manger and healing properties of the hay used in the scene.

The first stationary Nativity scene was crafted in marble about 65 years after St. Francis’ midnight scene. Others were constructed in wood, terracotta or stone. After the Middle Ages Nativity scenes could be found in most Catholic churches.

Many Nativity scene traditions

Different countries developed their own traditions. Small hand-painted terracotta figures called santons are popular in Provence, France. In southern Germany, Austria and northern Italy figurines are hand-cut in wood. Polish szopka incorporate a historical building into the scenes. The English had the most unusual custom of baking a mince pie in the shape of a manger to hold the Christ child until dinnertime when they would eat the pie.

Some traditions place Adam, Eve and the serpent; Noah and his animals or other biblical figures in the scene. Others depict events such as Mary washing diapers in the Jordan river, or a dove descending on the baby Jesus.

Whatever our own Nativity scenes look like, large or small, they remind us daily what the season is about–Christ who came as a baby to save us.

A great way to enter into Christmas is to view Father Jerry Dvorak’s collection of 275 creches displayed until Jan. 29 at the Church of St. Peter at 6730 Nicollet Ave. S. in Richfield. Viewing hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday* and after all weekend Masses.

*St. Peter’s building won’t be open Dec. 23, 26, 30 and Jan. 2.

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It’s starting to look a lot like Advent at the Catholic Spirit

November 29, 2011


Upon returning to the Catholic Spirit offices from lunch, I was greeted by the handiwork of the Christmas committee.

Nativity scene in our hallway.

Nice decorations! Now we just need to add some gifts beneath it.

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