A nativity scene, a very Italian tradition

One of the Italian traditions I miss during Christmas time is all those nativity scenes you see everywhere at this time of year.

Long before the Christmas tree came in vogue in Italy the majority of homes would make a “presepe” or a nativity scene.  Now it seems that the custom of the Christmas tree is slowly blurring the tradition of making a presepe although still every church has one like many village squares, coffee bars and many shops too.

Nativities are displayed from the 8th of December through the 6th of January, Epiphany day, with the arrival of the three Kings who take gifts to baby Jesus.

It is said that it was St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 to make the first live nativity representation in his small town of Greccio in the province of Rieti as to re-live the birth of Christ; he invited locals to play the main characters of the Gospel. He subsequently he created the first nativity scene in a cave.


A nativity scene: the village

The best place to go and visit nativity scenes is Naples where you will find proper works of art mostly hand made by local artisans. The main streets in central Naples are filled with stalls and displays of Nativity scenes. But all over Italy you can find very interesting displays, some made of sand like the one in Lignano Sabbiadoro I visited last year.

I took these photos last year when I went to visit a local man in my village who makes a rather large nativity scene in his home for the whole village to see. He constructed a small mill which can really ground maize into flour, small rivers with running water, day and night lights with stars in the sky, thunder and rain! So ingenious and inventive, I was amazed at his stunning work.

So, If you happen to visit Italy during the Christmas festivities look for these displays as they are proper works of art!

nativity scene

 nativity scene


Running water in the Nativity scene

nativity scene

Night time

the church

The church

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6 Responses to A nativity scene, a very Italian tradition

  1. la cucina di Molly

    L’albero di Natale è bello, ma il presepe è molto più suggestivo! Quest’anno ho fatto sia l’albero che il presepe, anche se piccolo,ma carinissimo! Belle le foto di questo presepe! Un abbraccio!

  2. gloria

    we love Navity scene! is amazing and is really Christmassy to us, we have and Italian pesebre!
    lovely! love your pics!

  3. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,

    What a lovely post this is! I love the Nativity scenes, after all if it was not for the stable, there would be no Christmas! The reason for the season they say! My mom has one from Italy, and it is amazing how detailed they are, You give such wonderful information, after all the research I do I never knew that St. Francis was the first to do a Living Nativity. This local man you visited is awesome! He is brilliant at his work, a true artisan. I love the photo at night, with the lights. He really puts his heart and soul into creating these wonderful scenes! Thank you so much for your words and the photos.

    Blessings, Dottie 🙂

    • Alida

      Thank you Dottie for your always kind and lovely comments XX

  4. Pingback: The Italian Christmas Nativity | My Little Italian Kitchen

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