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Significance Of Nativity Scene

By Sharon Thomas

People ready themselves beforehand to decorate their homes for Christmas. It all starts at least a month before the big day in Christianity. Stars, Christmas tree, gifts, and many other things are collected as a part of it. Wait! Something is amiss. Oh, yes. It is the nativity set. This can never be ruled out. It is very dear to all who celebrate Christmas.

One of the renowned symbols of Christmas is the nativity scene. It has become a very intricate part of the tradition. The word 'nativity' is derived from the Latin word 'nativus', which means 'arisen by birth'.

To put it in simple words, the nativity scene is the depiction of the night of Christ's birth. The depiction is usually done in various forms - live reenactment, models, carvings, and even ceramics. There is more to the nativity scene than what just meets the eye. Hidden meanings of it are given in detail in this article.



St. Francis of Assisi is credited to have developed the idea of the nativity scene. It was a live depiction done on Christmas eve in the year 1223 in a cave in Greccio, Italy. He used an ox and an ass as the barn animals. He did it with a purpose. He wanted the people, who were materialistic, to realise and understand the true meaning of Christmas. Moreover, he made them understand the poor condition in which Jesus was born in a manger. He also wanted to spread the message that Christianity was all about spirituality and worship. The idea of the nativity scene clicked and from then on it has been practiced every year.


The Elements And Their Symbolism

The basic elements used in the nativity scene are five - baby Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and the animals. Earlier on only these were present. As the years passed by, the three wise men were added. Then came the angels, the Star of Bethlehem, and even the common man. Now, let's check out what meaning do the elements depict.


Baby Jesus

He has outstretched arms. It is an invitation to all the people to accept salvation from Him.


Mother Mary

She wears a blue cloak which is the colour of sky and heaven. She is the virgin who is the link between the human and divine. That is why many people pray to God, the Almighty, by offering prayers to Mary. In some figurines, She is seen wearing a red dress which represents blood.


The Shepherds

They stand for the common man. It also reminds people of the lineage of Jesus - David, the King who was once a shepherd.


Barn Animals

Ox is used to signify patience and the people of Israel. The donkey is for humility and readiness to serve. Various other animals have also been used over the years. All of them watch over the Baby Jesus.


The Three Wise Men

The wise men otherwise known as the kings or magi come to meet Jesus with gifts to offer. Though they did not come in the night of the birth but later on as per the scriptures, the depiction is made to tell the world about their devotion. They are shown in three stages of life - one young, one middle-aged, and the last one - old. Even the clothes they wear depict three continents known at that time - Europe, Asia, and Africa. The gifts brought by the magi were gold which represents kingship, incense for divinity, and myrrh for the sacrificial death of Jesus bound to happen later on.


The Angels

The angels are used to represent the role played by them. It was they who told about Christ's birth to the shepherds. The presence of angels also shows that Jesus is a blessed baby.


The Star Of Bethlehem

It was a star that guided the magi on their journey to meet baby Jesus. This is why sometimes a star is used in a nativity scene.


The Message

Beyond all the representation, the nativity scene is all about the message it sends out to the people. It reminds everyone that the God sent His only begotten Son down to the earth for the sake of the people. Jesus was born to be sacrificed for the sins committed by man. This thinking instills devotion, keeping materialism at bay and Christmas is also about spreading love and the word of God.

Read more about: christmas
Story first published: Friday, December 15, 2017, 15:15 [IST]
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