Nativity Scenes:

The Perfect Christmas Gift


The term "nativity scene" has come to mean a lot of different things in a traditional celebration of Christmas. Either a two-dimensional or three-dimensional representation, a nativity scene depicts the birth of the baby Jesus, surrounded by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi, and even angels. Nativity scenes can be expressed through pictures or paintings, and are a popular motif for Christmas cards. However, the most popular forms of nativity scenes are three-dimensional and either involve statues in a static nativity scene, or real-life contributions with individuals acting the parts of the holy family.

Yet the tradition of the nativity scene varies around the world. Let's have a look at some international examples of nativity depictions, for especially in the case of nativity scenes in France and Spain, nativity scene pieces can become cherished collector's items the perfect idea for a gift or a collection that can keep growing year by year!

The United States

Nativity scenes can really represent a gathering point for the community in the United States, and life-sized nativity scenes are often a focus for towns, Christmas marketplaces, and even schools, although in some states the inclusion or omission of a nativity scene is a controversial issue. Nativity scenes with wooden or cardboard cutouts are also featured as part of people's personal home decorations and these can even include real barnyard animals for that extra touch of authenticity!


An amusing take on the idea of a nativity scene was displayed in 2004 by wax museum Madame Tussauds, in which the nativity scene featured the stars of sports, entertainment, and politics in nativity fancy dress. The models included wax versions of David and Victoria Beckham as Joseph and Mary. Tony Blair, George Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh were the Three Wise Men, and actors Hugh Grant and Samuel L. Jackson were amongst the shepherds. Even Kylie Minogue made an appearance in angel wings as the angel!

A santon produce seller


Santons are small, hand-painted, terracotta nativity scene figurines that come from the south-east Provence region of France. Dating back to the French Revolution, these figures are a typical feature in French households today, although not always in the collection's entirety. A traditional Provençal crèche will have up to 55 individual characters from village life, including the chestnut seller, fishwife, and scissor grinder!

El caganer


A traditional Catalan nativity scene might look similar to those found throughout the rest of Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy but with one notable addition! If you find the one character that looks like he's been caught with his pants down, then you've found him, el caganer ("the pooper") who is in the midst of defecating! He's often tucked off to the side, in some obscure corner, but for many, this is the most endearing details about celebrating Christmas in Barcelona and Catalonia, and provides the chance to give even the most irreverent or cynical a special Christmas gift!


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