Keys for a Better Understanding of the Nativity Scene

By Jesús Aguado

A few days before December 24, Catholic families begin to build nativity scenes in their homes that include a manger and cardboard landscapes of mountains, rivers, and other scenes. Hay, moss, and sawdust cover the base of the structure, which is also decorated with multicolored lights. Once the scenery is ready, the images of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the baby Jesus are put in place. The nativity scene also includes a donkey, an ox, an angel, and some shepherds. Some people also display representations of the everyday life of that time, such as shepherds sleeping or taking care of their flocks and women bearing rustic pitchers for water or baskets full of food. They also display villages with houses and a variety of domestic animals; it is common to see pigs, goats, turkeys, and cows.

A representation of the nativity scene is set up by Anselmo Martínez on Insurgentes 103, which not only features a whole village of that time but also includes several scenes of Jesus Christ’s life, such as the annunciation (the moment when the angel tells Mary that she has been chosen to carry the Christ in her womb;) Jesus lost and found at the temple; the three kings following the bright star; and Joseph’s workshop, where he is assisted by Jesus. This assembly is open to the general public daily from 9am to 7pm.

Symbolism of the Nativity figures

Baby Jesus is the love that arrived on earth to find shelter within the human heart.
Joseph represents obedience and strength turned into man.
Mary is the understanding and kindhearted woman who is faithful and loves God.
The angel is the living representation of love, mercy, and goodness.
The manger represents humility and simplicity.
The ox’s function is to keep the baby Jesus’ crib warm, an example of how people should create an environment full of love and warmth in their homes.
The donkey, as the most loyal and humble of animals, was selected to accompany Mary and Joseph through their journey.
The Three Wise Men, through offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolize royalty, worship, and sacrificial death.
The shepherds remind us of the importance of helping and watching over others.
The star represents an endless and refreshing source of light that brings hope and illuminates the darkness.

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