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The origin of the nativity scene
The incredible story of this Christmas tradition

(by Pablo Burgués)

Last 18th December, I was honestly walking along the old town of Ibiza when in the distance I spotted three Roman centurions. My well-developed sixth sense told me that those guys were public relations officers of some disco and were disguised in that way to promote some very crazy Christmas party. Without hesitation I approached them and with a naughty face I asked when that Roman bacchanal would take place. The oldest of them, who might be 12 years and a half, looked at me panic-stricken and answered: “We don’t work for any disco, sir. We’re students at colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación and please get out of our representation of the nativity by real people or we’ll call the police”.

Already at home, and feeling relieved after checking that my face (with the hashtag #ACrazyGuyWalkingAlongIbiza) wasn’t trending topic on Twitter, I started to search where the hell this very geek tradition of nativity scenes comes from.

Well, it seems that the creator of all this fuss was a super personality born in 1181 in Italy, called Francis of Assisi (Frank, the Voices, for his friends). His father was a famous and wealthy fabric merchant, the Amancio Ortega of the time. However, young Frankie was not very fond of that issue of fabric, so when he was 17 years he volunteered for the army. But, suddenly, the night before his first big battle, the guy listened a mysterious voice inside him that ordered him to go back to his village immediately. Thus, following the motto “cemeteries are full of brave and greedy people”, he took his things and got back sound and safe to his home Assisi.

Already at home that voice talked to him again: “Francis, go and fix St Damian’s chapel, that is a mess right now”. After hearing this, our friend ripped his family off and spent all the money to fix that church. His dear father wasn’t amused at all with that, and, to make the guy think things over and forget so many voices and nonsenses, he chained him in a prison. Francis escaped soon and after taking the vow of poverty, he devoted the rest of his life to preach the Gospel all over.

After several decades travelling around the world, in 1223 Francis listened that strange voice for the last time: “Francis, it’s time to leave your rope-soled sandals. I order you to go back home and from now on celebrate Christmas there in the same way that Jesus of Nazareth did”. Frankie went back to his village, enrolled four mates of him to steal a mule and an ox, and all of them went to a cave in the city of Greccio, where they set up the first nativity scene in history.

Against the odds, that geek idea was acclaimed by critics and audience alike and, as human beings are very much “monkey see, monkey do”, the fashion of setting up nativity scenes gained prominence little by little up to now, when it’s already considered as epidemic.

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Pablo Burgués on Instagram and Twitter

Translation: Dora Sales

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