Nativity Plays and Cribs – Xmas Traditions

Christmas nativity scenes are part and parcel of Christmas celebrations. After all, they enact the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Nativity plays are basically a demonstration of the sequence of events that took place during the birth of Jesus.

Cribs, on the other hand, are images, models, or carvings that depict the night of Jesus’ birth.

Both nativity plays and cribs contain vital elements of Christianity that include Baby Jesus in a manger, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, angels, barn animals, and sometimes, the three wise men.

Read on to find out more about nativity scenes.

Creation of the First Nativity Scene

The very first Nativity show was produced by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223.

He intended to promote the true meaning of the birth of Christ, Christmas and why Jesus should be worshiped.

He set his nativity scene in a cave during a mass he had organized on Christmas Eve. For this purpose, he invited both the locals and his friars.

The scene consisted of an empty manger, as well as a live ox and donkey.

He told the part played by each character according to the bible story using wooden figures.

The play became so popular that people started using live humans and animals. The actors sang songs during the play, which is what people call Christmas carols.

Modern Nativity Scenes

After some time, the idea caught on and spread out far and wide.

Within a century, most Christians in Italy adopted the practice of adding nativity cribs inside and outside their churches.

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Over the years, believers began using statues of both people and animals instead of living things.

Currently, cribs, pictures, and statues can be found in most homes and churches during the festive season all over the world.

Modern Nativity Scenes

In places such as the United Kingdom, kids in primary schools perform nativity plays to entertain parents and the townsfolk.

Human characters, including Mary, Joseph, and the three wise men are represented by kids, while baby Jesus could be a doll.

In some instances, animal props are used during the performance, but sometimes the kids will dress up to play the part as well.

Sunday schools also put on nativity shows in churches to teach and entertain the congregation.

Inconsistencies between the Nativity Scenes and the Bible

In spite of the popularity and importance of nativity plays and cribs, there are a few theological errors.

The main characters in nativity cribs are Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus, but some people also include angels, the shepherds, the wise men, as well as animals like dogs, sheep, donkeys, oxen, and camels.

These errors are attributable to the fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention what animals were present in the stable.

It, however, reveals that the shepherds saw Jesus and went on to spread the word. The wise men saw the child in the house with his mother, which means that the two groups of people never met in the stable.

However, believers find inspiration is seeing every character gathered together on a nativity play or crib.

Given that nativity plays and cribs portray the birth of Christ, they play an integral part of Christmas celebrations.

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Churches and schools use them to remind people about the importance of the birth of Christ.

In spite of the inconsistencies, the most important thing about the nativity plays and cribs is their message to the world.

Main Points About Nativity Plays and Cribs

  1. The essence of Christmas is built around the birth of Jesus Christ. The word nativity comes from the Latin word natal which means birth.
  2. Nativity plays are often performed during Christmas time to provide a dramatic re-enactment of the birth of Jesus.
  3. Nativity plays tell the story of the birth of Jesus and the circumstances surrounding it.
  4. A very popular Christmas decoration is the nativity scene, the center of attraction being the nativity crib.
  5. Nativity cribs are inherent to Christmas celebrations in many countries. Naples in Italy is the home of the largest nativity crib. It features 162 people, 80 animals, angels, and about 450 other objects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Nativity Plays and Cribs


A nativity scene is a scene set as the story about the birth of Jesus is told. The word itself is from Latin, meaning ”birth” (natal).

Many schools in the UK and churches in many countries set up nativity plays around Christmas telling the story about the birth of Christ, played by children.

Wooden cribs are now used in churches and homes to remind people of this story at Christmas.

Word Cloud for Nativity Plays and Cribs

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Nativity Plays and Cribs. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

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