One of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in Italy is with the Nativity scene. Recreating the Nativity to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 (Assisi is in mid-Italy). The previous year he visited Bethlehem and saw where it was thought that Jesus was born. A lot of Italian families now have a Nativity crib in their homes.
A traditional presepe from Naples.
The Origins of the Nativity Creche
The city of Naples in Italy is world famous for its creche-making. These are known as ‘Presepe Napoletano’ (meaning Neapolitan Cribs). The first crib scene in Naples is thought to go back to 1025 and was in the Church of St. Maria del Presepe (Saint Mary of the Crib). This was even before St. Francis of Assisi made cribs very popular!
Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century, and it is still popular today (before that, only churches and monasteries had cribs). Cribs are traditionally put out on December 8, but the figure of Baby Jesus isn’t placed in the crib until the evening of December 24!
Porcelain Baby Jesus and Crib from the Holy Land Gift Shop. Most people put hay in the crib to make Jesus a little more comfortable.
Making the Nativity a Family Tradition
Michaelann Martin at the Catholic Education Resource Center shares more about family traditions which incorporate the use of the crib scene or the Baby Jesus and the empty manger:
Each child may have his own individual manger, or there may be one manger for the whole family. The idea is that when acts of service, sacrifice, or kindness are done in honor of Baby Jesus as a birthday present, the child receives a piece of straw to put into the manger. Then, on Christmas morning, Baby Jesus is placed in the manger. You can encourage your children to make Jesus’ bed as comfortable as possible through their good deeds. In the process, explain Jesus’ incomparable self-gift at Christmas and Easter that enables us to be part of God’s family.
See the original post here.