The tradition of having a nativity scene or "crèche" was made popular by St. Francis of Assisi. It is a reproduction of the cave in Bethlehem with Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus in a manger, shepherds, angels, and animals. Each night during Advent, children are encouraged to place in the manger one piece of straw for each good deed done that day by a family member. This Advent tradition combines the spirit of conversion and the coming of Jesus.
Many of us (especially those from the Philippines) grew up accustomed to the sight of the Nativity scene -- or what we often call the "Belen" -- during Christmastime. We had a simple one at home, and it was a staple in every parish as well. Shopping malls usually had more elaborate Nativity sets, and walking along Ayala Avenue, around Ortigas Center or any financial district would let one set eyes on creatively fashioned scenes depicting that now familiar night in Bethlehem, on building facades, rooftops, lobbies, drop-off points. In researching about the Belen, I discovered quite a few things and many different renditions of the Nativity. Talented artists are aplenty indeed!
This is where you'll get some interesting general tidbits on history and the significance of other symbols of the season such as Christmas lights, the tree, the candle, window lights, holly and the delightful poinsettia.
This website called Spanish Nativity is a gem, for it opened my eyes to the whole new world of creches and the fact that there are associations of Belen makers from Spain and other nations! Today also I learned that "Belen" actually means "Bethlehem" -- from this site as well (my mother was hardly surprised as I reported to her this new thing I learned today; I guess "Belen" meaning "Bethlehem" is common knowledge to other people but me). Anyway, check out the site if only to enjoy the pictures. Needless to say, Spain's Nativity sets are not like the ones I'm used to.
While you're at it, you might as well pass by Hans Gruener's website which, besides featuring more Nativity scenes of different styles, gives you some brief and wonderful messages about the season, accompanying each photo.
posted by sunnyday at 9:08 PM
Post a Comment
< < Home