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The History Behind Nativity Scenes

The nativity scenes used most often at Christmas feature Joseph and Mary, with the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, inside a basket or crib. What surrounds them differs, but it always follows the same Biblical theme. Have you ever wondered how that tradition got its start?

Meant to be a reminder of why we celebrate the season, the first three dimensional nativity scenes can be traced back as far as St. Francis of Assisi, but the Jesuits Priests of 1562 Prague can take credit for adding the crib. Clay figures were used in the south of France, sometimes in the hundreds.

When displayed, there is a progression of activities that were to be followed from the beginning of their use. The baby Jesus was never meant to be a part of the display until the night of Christmas Eve, and it should never be placed until two nights before.

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