Nativity sets have been part of Christian holiday celebrations since the 17th century. Originally a Catholic tradition, Protestants followed suit in the late 1800’s and since that time, setting up the Nativity has become a beloved Christmas tradition in many homes and schools. Nothing can be sweeter than the voices of young children singing “Away in a Manger” when children begin reenacting the birth of Christ in their school holiday pageants.
Nativity scenes include the figures of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus lying in a manger. Larger sets will often include an ox and donkey, the 3 wise men, shepherds with livestock and angels. These religious symbols can be found in varying sizes from the elaborate indoor nativities found in Spain to the simplest of tabletop stables used in home décor. Life size or even larger than life size is perfect for outdoor settings that might include a commercial building or a mall. If you have a large front yard these life size figures will certainly attract attention. You may choose to use only the figures of the Holy Family in a stable or, if there is room, the whole “cast” can be displayed. One unique way to display a large Nativity set indoors is to use your fireplace as the “stable”. Mary, Joseph and Jesus can be set in front of the firebox, the three wise men and shepherds can gather around and the angel can be placed on the mantel for a beautiful mantelscape. This beautiful display can be left out all season long. Depending on how you choose to celebrate, that could mean until January 6th which is Epiphany or even up to February 2nd, feast day of the Presentation of the Lord.
There are also many styles available. Some figures have a very life like appearance while others are very rustic or childlike. The choice is yours. The materials most often used are fiberglass, wood or resin. With today’s technology, lighting the Nativity is a simple process and fiber optic lighting is often used for true drama.
Regardless of the style or size you choose, a Nativity set is a lovely way to remember the true meaning of the Christmas holiday.