As Christmas approaches, the Church is striving to remind everyone that Jesus is the Reason for the Season! And as part of its efforts, the Vatican has opened a vast display of nativity scenes from all over the world. They were gathered with the help of the various countries’ Ambassadors to the Holy See, who submitted a fascinating array of Christmas cribs made in their respective nations from an amazing variety of materials. For example, the green-roofed box nativity seen here came from Taiwan, and includes miniature copies of sacred paintings found in the Cathedral in Taipei.
This lovely work consists entirely of plaited straw, and is on display courtesy of the Embassy of Hungary.
And an organization of Italian artistans who specialize in working with coral provided this jaw-dropping scene–truly fit for a king!
Guatamala is home to this complicated scene composed of marionettes–and it was plastered with numerous warnings NOT to touch! You have to wonder how many little kiddies eagerly reached out to move the three kings (on the right), who were perilously close to us viewers…
Even though you’re not allowed to touch, the exhibition is definitely kid-friendly! There were plenty of little ones on hand, and they were surprisingly well behaved too, probably because they were in a complete state of visual overload like us adults!
This complicated ceramic scene hails from the Czech Republic. As anyone who’s ever been to Prague can tell you, the buildings surrounding the Holy Family are easily recognizable: they can be found in that lovely city’s medieval center.
In contrast, this much simpler nativity is from Colombia, and was made from dried corn husks. Somehow, Joseph’s cloak and Baby Jesus’ tiny blanket were woven from miniscule “threads” pulled from the corn. You have to admire the artist’s patience…
Perhaps the most poignant nativity was built by an Italian man who is currently incarcerated in prison. He built a large, detailed prison complex that is apparently very much like his own, showing the nativity scene that is in reality on display for the prisoners in its central hall.
And no exhibition of nativity scenes in Italy would be complete without this! Can you figure out what this lighted nativity scene is made of?
(Hint: below is a close-up of the Holy Family, with the ox and ass standing behind them)
That’s right! In Italy, pasta isn’t just for eating! You can use it for building a manger, filling it with straw, artfully draping Mary’s veil…
There were plenty of other scenes–100 in all!–and best of all, this wonderful exhibition is free. You can read more about it here, but in short, the concept of an annual display of nativities from around the world was first envisioned in 1976 by a lay Italian, who was distressed to see that secular Christmas trees seemed to be taking precedence over traditional manger scenes. Every year, an entirely new set of Christmas cribs are collected and put on display, making this an event worth a visit every single Christmas. Why not come to Rome next Christmas, so you can see it yourself?