Today’s post was written by Amanda Lasker, Gossypia.
The birth of the nativity scene had its origin in the biblical gospels of the apostles Matthew and Luke, where they describe the birth of Christ. From there began the various representations of the birth scene which have passed down through the centuries with the spread of Christianity.
The most famous and earliest nativity scenes were from Italy. It is said St. Francis characterized the first nativity using real people and animals. But each area of the world has created its own and the incredible variety from fine artistic ones to the humble is fascinating. In Kenya, Africa, they can be made of mud clay or banana leaves. In Ethiopia, you find the hand-painted and treasured Icons. Mexico, of all countries, seems to have the most varieties of nativity scenes. There are the intricate beaded ones made by the Huichol Indians, the black lava earth ones made in the state of Oaxaca, etc.
Chinese scenes usually have Chinese features, Indonesian figures are dressed in their typical dress, as are the Peruvian scenes from the Andes. Eastern European traditions are predominately beautifully carved from wood. One could go on and on.
The finest nativity scenes are considered art and the primitive ones folk art. At Christmas time, in the DC area, the National Cathedral (Episcopal) on Massachusetts Avenue has a lovely display of nativities from all over the world as does the Mormon National Tabernacle in Kensington MD. They are both worth a visit.