The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Community News Network

December 14, 2012

Slate's Explainer: Why people put up nativity scenes

(Continued)

Within a couple centuries of Francis' inaugural display, nativity scenes had spread throughout Europe. It's unclear from Bonaventure's account whether Francis used people or figures to stand in for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, or if the spectators just used their imagination, but later nativity scenes included both tableaux vivants and dioramas, and the cast of characters gradually expanded to include not only the happy couple and the infant, but sometimes entire villages. The familiar cast of characters we see today — the three wise men and the shepherds — aren't biblically accurate. Of the four gospels in the New Testament, only Matthew and Luke describe Jesus' birth, the former focusing on the story of the wise men's trek to see the infant king, the latter recounting the shepherds' visit to the manger where Jesus was born. Nowhere in the Bible do the shepherds and wise men appear together, and nowhere in the Bible are donkeys, oxen, cattle or other domesticated animals mentioned in conjunction with Jesus' birth. But early nativity scenes took their cues more from religious art than from scripture.

After the reformation, creches became more associated with southern Europe (where Catholicism was still prevalent), while Christmas trees were the northern European decoration of choice (since Protestantism — and evergreens — thrived there). As nativity scenes spread, different regions began to take on different artistic features and characters. For example, the "santon" figurines manufactured in Provence in France are made of terra cotta and include a wide range of villagers. In the Catalonia region of Spain, a figure known as the "caganer" — a young boy in the act of defecating — shows up in most nativity scenes. In 20th- and 21st-century America, nativity figurines became associated with kitsch rather than piety, with nonreligious figures like snowmen and rubber ducks sometimes occupying the main roles.

Text Only
Community News Network
Featured Ads
Promotions
Poll

What's been the primary cause of the Texas Rangers' poor first half of the 2014 baseball season?

Too many injuries
The loss of Nolan Ryan in the front office
Questionable decisions by general manager Jon Daniels
On-field decisions by manager Ron Washington
Key players just aren't producing
All of the above
     View Results
Facebook
Must Read
Photos


See more photos and purchase prints here.

AP Video
Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide