Who’s in Your Manger Scene?

This following has been translated and adapted from an article originally written in Spanish last year. Para leer en Español, haga click aquí. 

Peruvian "Retablo" Manger Scene. Photo: http://peru21.pe/

Peruvian “Retablo” Manger Scene. Photo: http://peru21.pe

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. Families all throughout the world have already begun to decorate their houses with lights, trees, and nativity scenes. While Christmas traditions, decorations and treats can be quite diverse across the globe, one thing many countries and cultures have in common is the use of Nativity Scenes.

Saint Francis of Asis is attributed with the creation of the nativity scene in the year 1223. In Peru, manger scenes (called nacimientos) go back to the foundation of the country’s capital city, Lima in 1535. While the original nativity scene was made up of just the Holy Family and a couple of animals, the Lima version had two groups of Wise Men, Shepherds, and host of characters typical to the area, including a tamale vendor, a bread man, ice-cream man and many more.

“Each Peruvian manger scene has picked up the traditions of each pueblo and we is decorated with objects native to that area in order to showcase our ecological and cultural diversity,” (Luna Elías; El Peruano Magazine)

Whether the manger scene you have set up in your house has jaguars and orangutans (as is the case with Peruvian Jungle manger scenes) or sheep and donkeys (as is the case with tradition North American manger scenes), what really matters is who you have placed in the center. For without the “baby wrapped in swaddling clothes” that is placed at the center of every manger scene, there would be no Christmas. There’d be no reason to decorate our houses. No reason to exchange gifts. No peace. No salvation. We’d still be under the law and under the dominion of sin. In short – there’d be no real reason to celebrate.

Peruvian Nacimiento from the region of Arequipa (Southern Highlands)

Peruvian Nacimiento from the region of Arequipa (Southern Highlands)

Jesus is not only at the center of our manger scenes, but the center of our celebrations, our relationships, and our lives.

And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ – Luke 2:10-11

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