General information and resources for students and adult learners.

Nativity Scene

The crib representing the manger in which the baby Jesus Christ was laid after his birth in a stable in Bethlehem, has become a favorite Christmas decoration.  For centuries it has been used to bring the Christmas story to life.

Francis of Assisi who was renowned for his love of animals, instituted the custom of the nativity scene.  After receiving permission from the Pope, he erected the first one during the Christmas of 1224 in a cave outside the Italian town of Greccio.  It was not the modern type of crib nor was it a crafted model but a live scene.  A friend John Velita, supplied Francis with a manger, straw and animals.  It was an eye-catching way to celebrate the memory of the child who was born in Bethlehem.  When people gathered to view the spectacle, Francis of Assisi stood in front of the manger and recited the Gospel relating to the scene; then he delivered a sermon.

Francis of Assisi’s idea certainly caught the public’s imagination.  Today nativity scene with the figures of Joseph, Mary, and the three wise men along with an ox and an ass become popular throughout the Christian world.


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