The definition of the word ‘nativity’ is ‘the birth’. When it comes to the period of Christmas (the Season of Advent), a Nativity, sometimes called a Crèche or a Manger, tells the Christian story of the birth of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago. The original story is told in the early chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible. Many Christians also refer to Christmas Day as The Nativity.
The most basic Nativity Scene is a three-dimensional diorama consisting of a stable-like structure with figurines of a man, Joseph, his wife, Mary, a few animals including at least one donkey, and a feeding trough, also called a manger. There is also a figurine of the baby Jesus but many people only add this to the scene on Christmas Eve as representation of his birth. Often there are also wise men from the east on or beside camels, bringing gifts to the baby. Overhead, a star shines to lead these wise men to the stable of the baby who will grow up to be a new king.
Nativity scenes are created in all sizes from tiny jewellery to life-size or larger and from every sort of material. Some are simply cardboard cutouts while others are made with paper-mache, timber, china or terracotta. Universally, they each express the joy of the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
The story of the Nativity is often acted out either by or for children in special Christmas features in some churches, schools and communities with many bringing live animals and even a live baby ‘Jesus’ into the fun drama.