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Nativity Set Introduction

Nativity Sets?

This dialogue conducted in many gift shops and antique malls seems to suggest that one of the most popular Christmas traditions in Latin American and European countries is little known in the United States. True or false?

Whatever the response, this web page would like to introduce the visitor to some aspects of the creche culture. Crèche, Krippe, Nacimiento, and Presepe – all these foreign sounding words refer to Christ's second dwelling place on earth, the manger or crib of Bethlehem, the first habitat, as we know, having been Mary's womb. The center of any and all nativity sets is the Christ child. Everyone and everything else revolves around him, as fits the "Firstborn of creation." 

In his company there is the whole world: his mother and first disciple, Mary, the faithful but struggling Joseph, ox and ass as representatives of the animal reign, and the shepherds and magi, meaning the rich and poor of this world. The star in heaven and the angels hovering over the Child are a constant reminder that the world is one with God, and the Child himself one of the Trinity.

But pious imagination did not stop at the traditional actors and actresses of the Christmas event. Other figures were added, and whole new stories interwoven with that of the birth of Christ. They all have this powerful message: Christ is born for all of us, at any given time, no matter color or culture. The Christ child is a magnet which attracts people from all walks of life. They all bring gifts of gratitude, visible and invisible ones, and converge on him who gives them faith, hope and love for God and each other.

A nativity set is not just a nativity set, but part of the story of how Christianity has shaped the culture of people whose faith was captured by the good news of Christ's birth and presence among them. But not to forget: the nativity sets are also signs of the many ways in which human culture has helped the message of God to be better understood and more gratefully cherished.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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