December is on the way and with it comes Christmas, a time replete with celebrations, joy and traditions, such as mounting nativity scenes and displaying them in homes, churches and institutions.
Nativity scenes depict Jesus’ birth with small figures such as Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus. Building and displaying nativity scenes forms part of the Christmas liturgy in many countries (Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Latin America and the United States), especially in the Catholic tradition.
Nativity scenes are mounted before Christmas, traditionally on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, with Mary and Joseph as the main figures surrounded by traditional shepherds, oxen mules, sand, palm trees, rivers and even snow. The figure of the Baby Jesus is added on Christmas Eve and the Magi are incorporated on January 6.
The origin of this Christmas tradition dates back to the thirteenth century, when a living re-enactment of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth was staged in a town in Italy, sometime between 1200 and 1226. From thereon in, the Church saw to it that nativity scenes were mounted in churches, homes or public places to strengthen faith and devotion.
One of the most exceptional nativity scenes in Mallorca is mounted in the Church of the Annunciation, considered one of Spain’s oldest. Its origin is unknown, but it is believed that it was created by the Alamanno brothers, woodcarvers who worked in Naples between 1460 and 1480. This nativity scene is mounted in the first chapel on the left in the church. Fifteenth-century figurines of Mary and Joseph and the sixteenth-century figure of the Baby Jesus are surrounded by several flying angels and others carrying instruments such as harps, flutes or organs, cherubim and an angel with a banner with La Gloria.
An eighteenth-century Neapolitan nativity scene in the Palau March contains figures from a number of different places that reproduce southern Italy’s natural scenery. It is installed in a display case in a polygonal room with decoration that frames the numerous figures and elements involved in Jesus’ birth.
The gigantic nativity scene at La Salle in Alaior, Menorca is famous for its depiction of the Menorcan landscape with dry stone walls, wooden gates that shut off the stockades, decoration inside the houses, smoke in the chimneys, fountains, rivers, wells and even thunder and lightning.
Ibiza is the site of an enormous nativity scene designed and crafted by specialised artists from all over Spain and installed in the tent on Paseo de Vara del Rey for the general public.
More information: www.illesbalears.es
Category: Balearic Islands festivals