Nacimientos: The tradition of the nativity scene

La Navidad has come and gone but Día de Los Reyes is only a few days away and I realized that we’ve never talked about nacimientos, or nativity scenes, here before! And every nativity scene has Los Reyes Magos, the three kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus on the Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas.

Displaying a nativity scene at home is a storied tradition in Mexico, but nacimientos actually originated in Italy, thanks to Saint Francis of Assisi.

Here are two nacimientos belonging to our family. The figurines on the left are made from hojas de maiz, or corn husks, and belong to my suegra; the one on the right is made of wood with clay figurines and belongs to our Tía Leda.

Check out the story below on nacimientos from Café magazine’s December 2010 issue to learn more about the origin of the nativity scene. And if you live in Chicago or will be visiting this year, head to the Field Museum to see a beautiful collection of nacimientos in the Webber Gallery, donated by William Goldman. The exhibit is called “Traditions Retold: Mexican Nativity Scenes,” and runs through September 18, 2011.

  • Do you have a nacimiento in your home or do you have fond memories of setting up the nacimiento with your abuela as a child?



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