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The Bethlehem, also called Birth, Manger, Portal or Pasitos, is the material representation of the scenes of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi.
This representation is usually exhibited during the Christmas in homes, churches, schools, official institutions, shop windows, shopping centers, etc.
The staging of the nativity scenes is very varied. The figures can be made of wood, clay, ceramic, paper, cardboard or fired clay, and decorated in the most varied ways that the imagination can foresee.
The personalization of Christmas nativity scenes is a tradition in many families and many homes always set aside a special place to set up the Nativity scene. Nativity scenes often elicit the admiration of friends and family, and new ingredients are added each year.
The tradition of the history of the Bethlehem dates back to the 13th century. On Christmas Eve 1223, Saint Francis of Assisi gathered the residents of the Italian town of Greccio in a hermitage to celebrate the midnight mass.
Around a manger, with the figure of the baby Jesus molded by the hands of Saint Francis, praises were sung to the Mystery of the Birth. At the most solemn moment of the mass, that immobile figure came to life, smiled and extended its arms towards the Saint of Assisi.
Before the celebration of Greccio, there are antecedents of the plastic representation of the birth of Jesus. The remains of Nativity scenes have appeared in Roman catacombs and in churches, and other places linked to Christian worship.
It was from the fourteenth century when the tradition of putting the Nativity Scene at Christmas was consolidated in the Italian peninsula, which was later transferred to the rest of Europe.
In Spain, the Nativity Scene arrived in the middle of the 18th century, when Carlos III de Borbón became king of Spain. It first promoted the tradition of setting up the Nativity scene among the Spanish aristocracy, later becoming a popular practice throughout Spain and Latin America.
Today, the tradition of putting the Nativity Scene is maintained in all Catholic countries. The figurines are assembled with pieces made of wood, clay, plastic, metal or even ice (huge ice sculptures are built in the Nordic countries).
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