"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' --which means, 'God with us.'" Country in Focus: Italy
Tradition: Live Nativity
Directions: Find a church that does a live nativity.
In the 10th century, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome created the first nativity scene. The tradition became popular throughout Italy. Unfortunately, the scene featured gold and jewels. In 1224, St. Francis of Assisi decided that a more realistic nativity scene was needed. His manger scene, called a creche, was filled with hay, carved figures and live animals. This was in the village of Greccio.
In the 1700s, the tradition was brought to Spain. From Spain, the tradition traveled to Mexico. Live people were added to the scene. Often the entire scene of Mary and Joseph traveling to find a place to stay was acted out, with the actors parading through the village. In the 19th century, it became a tradition to not add Baby Jesus to the nativity scene until Christmas Eve night. Baby Jesus was added to the nativity with a large parade and festival.
If you know of a church in the area that has a live nativity, it is worth watching. Our church has a play called "The Bethlehem Inn", that is done dinner theater style. It is performed every two years. I definitely miss it on the off year, which this one was. I look forward to it again next year!