Saturday 8 December 2007

The tradition of Nativities at Christmas

As Christmas approaches, I though it would be nice to say a few words about the tradition of preparing Nativity scenes for Christmas, which is a real thing in Italy, but also in Germany, Austria and I believe in Switzerland too.

This tradition was born in Italy when in 1223 when Francis of Assisi met a noble man called Giovanni Graccio who asked him how he could follow our Lord. Francis told him to prepare for Christmas, so Giovanni decided to prepare a real stable. Many were coming to see the stable, so Francis asked the Pope permission for introducing a new rite to celebrate Christmas. He sent for a priest and while there, amongst the hey, the ox and the donkey, with the many people who had turned up, they celebrated Mass.

Francis sang the Gospel and after it - while really emotionally involved in the story of Christmas - he said "This is the night when God makes himself small like a baby at his mother's breast" and then he started to speak like a toddler himself. The crowd saw Francis holding a wonderful baby in his arms and that miracle was source of peace for many. Other miracles are narrated and reported, which are associated with this event.

Today at Christmas every church and house has a nativity scene or "Presepio". Much time is dedicated to make this representation of the nativity special every year and there are also exhibitions like the one at Villa Mimma ("La cantina dei presepi") that open to the public for most of December and January.


Barbara said...

I never realized there was a story behind the nativity scenes, so thanks for sharing it! We've enjoyed the presepi displays here in Italy...they're all very detailed and interesting.

Villa Mimma said...

Nativity scenes have been part of the world of art since the beginning when paintings of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the manger can be found I think even in some of the catacumbs in Rome. But the "presepio" with statues and people other than the Sacred Family has been a consequence of San Francis of Assisi.