Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Neapolitan Christmas Crib, 4th Day of UK Christmas

Okay, so this isn't so much a UK thing, but there's a special Neapolitan Christmas Crib at St. Josephs, the church we went to on Christmas morning. I hadn't heard of such cribs before and was delightfully surprised when I saw it. Here's the description from the church bulletin:
The Neapolitan Christmas Crib – As you may have noticed in the entrance of the Church lobby (by Our Lady) a crib is being assembled, as we did last year. The origins of the Neapolitan crib dates back to 1223 when St Francis of Assisi gave life to the ancient religious play of the Nativity, by carrying it for the first time near Greccio woods. To this day the Neapolitan people, as a tradition, like to make the crib which must be ready for display by December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and taken down after the Feast of the Epiphany. Tradition also states that a donation box be placed near the crib for the faithful to make a donation to Catholic Care Children’s Charity.
The crib is actually a large, elaborate Nativity scene, including not only the stable where the Christ child was born but also much of the neighboring town and countryside. I've always loved miniature towns, one of the attractions of elaborate train sets. (Interestingly, there are no miniature train exhibits for Christmas like we had back in the States.) Elements like little houses, water wheels, vehicles, etc., are fascinating to look at. The intricacy and artistry is often quite admirable.

Jacob and Lucy were as fascinated as I was.

Neapolitan Cribs are also fun because they often encorporate anachronistic elements like the following:

Meat and cheese shop with loafers on the roof!

Jacket potatoes and fish and chips, a Bethlehem specialty?

Fruit and veg shop!

Of course the central part of the scene is the stable where Jesus was born.

You can read more about Neapolitan cribs here.

For an English nativity scene connection, check out this story from Wikipedia:
A tradition in England, involved baking a mince pie in the shape of a manger to hold the Christ child until dinnertime when the pie was eaten. When the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations in the 17th century, they also passed specific legislation to outlaw such pies, calling them "Idolaterie in crust".[5]
Also, we went to Ripon Cathedral and saw a regular nativity set that was beautiful if not whimsical.

Classical nativity (yes, that is a tomb on the left!)

Lucy and the Three Wise Men on the other side of the cathedral, on their way to see Jesus.


  1. the parish we go to here in Florida, St. Gabriel's in Pompano Beach has the same type of scene. It features also scenes from around the world at the time of Christ. It goes all the way around the whole sanctuary. Very elaborate.

  2. I'm feeling so educated/cultured after reading this blog. The train set comparison helped me imagine these scenes better. Thanks!