The Nativity Scene - A Christmas Tradition
Saint Francis of Assisi was so taken by the mystery of the Incarnation (God taking human form), that he presented a living Nativity, thus creating (in 1223) the popular tradition, which still inspires us today.
Setting up the manger figures is a favorite family activity. Children like to arrange the figures of Mary and Joseph in the stable, and the shepherds, animals and other figures who are moved closer to the stable each day in anticipation of the arrival of the . In many families, the figure of the Baby Jesus remains hidden until Christmas morning, when the children “discover” Him in the manger. It is also a custom to have the figures of the wise men begin their approach towards Bethlehem on Christmas Day after the star appeared, to arrive at the stable on the Epiphany.
Preparing the Manger for the Christ Child
In his Gospel, St. Luke tells us that after Jesus was born, Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.” Another custom has evolved known as the preparation of the manger – a practice of having children prepare soft bedding for the manger. The custom originated in France and then spread to Germany and other European countries. Each night a child places a straw in the manger for each act of kindness performed throughout the day. When the Christ Child comes on Christmas Eve, He will find plenty of straw bedding to soften the hardness of the manger’s boards.
Presepio at St. Brigid’s
For over 20 years St. Brigid’s Church has featured a Nativity scene in the Italian Neapolitan style known as a Presepio. The Presepio can be found in the north transcept of the Church during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Besides the Holy Family, it features angels, shepherds and Magi. The Presepio also includes figures and buildings – even St. Brigid’s Church – representing everyday life. The symbolism is that Christ was born into the real world and lived among everyday people. Mary and Joseph travel along the street from St. Brigid’s Church to the magnificent Angel Tree during the weeks of Advent.
A visit to the Presepio at St. Brigid’s Church is definitely worth adding to your family’s Christmas traditions.
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