Inghams Italy Advent- 4 dicembre
Thu Dec 2014
The presepe is one of the most traditional symbols of Christmas in Italy. A nativity scene, even just a really small one, is to be found in almost every Italian house at Christmas. The name probably comes from the Latin word praesaepe, which means crib. The tradition of making representations of the Birth of Jesus, both living and static, is likely to have originated in Medieval times in the territory of modern Italy.
The traditional figures of the presepe are Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Joseph. The representation of the Nativity is inspired by stories of the birth of Jesus as narrated by Matthew and Luke in their Gospels. This is why an angel, some shepherds and the Magi are also present in the scene. Usually, a donkey and an ox complete the manger scene, even though they are not mentioned in the Gospels.
Building the Nativity scene is an activity that children particularly enjoy. People like collecting presepe statues and adding new ones every year. In homes where family members are particularly creative, huge surfaces are dedicated to the nativity scene. Many people like to enrich the basic manger scene with entire village scenes, where peasants bake bread, take water from the well or make pottery.
Nativity scenes have also inspired the greatest Italian artists: Giotto painted the most famous one in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, whereas Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi can be admired in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In fact, the presepe is as common as the Christmas tree in Italy: if you don’t have one, it’s not really Christmas!