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Effective setup of a Nativity Set

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Nativity Sets have much meaning from the simplicity of the scene right up to who the characters are and how they are set up. A nativity scene can arguable be the most important Christmas decoration rivaled only by the Christmas tree itself. But is there a right way to set up a Nativity scene?

Although no official right or wrong way to set one up, the care you place in setting up the nativity scene will often give a far better meaning and understanding of the nativity tableau, one of the most enduring symbols of  Christmas. Consideration must be undertaken when deciding if this is an indoor or outdoor scene, with each display type needing to be handled differently.

Some of what needs to be decided is how many characters will occupy the nativity scene. The principle characters are of course that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Jesus is always placed directly in the center of the scene. It is not proper to move Him off center. One tradition that is becoming more and more commonplace is to remove the statue of the baby Jesus and withhold it until Christmas eve. Although not required, many churches also follow this practice and place the baby Jesus in the manger after the Midnight mass on Christmas/Christmas eve. 

The statue of Mary is often placed very closed to the baby or the manger, just as a mother would be with her baby. Joseph however can occupy one of several places, with the most common being on the opposite side of the manager. Other options for Joseph are behind or next to Mary, with some of the barnyard animals, or even the shepherd children looking over the baby Jesus.  These are the three principle characters of all nativity sets. Even the actual stable can be missing for a simplistic representation.

From there the other characters are introduced into the equation.  They are not necessary but they paint a far richer painting of the first nativity. The next most enduring image from a Nativity set would be the Wisemen who approached from the east of from the right side of the nativity scene.  This provides a realism to your scene that although its subtle, it makes the point and represents the scene accurately. 

The shepherds are one of the most fascinating aspects of the nativity scene. They saw the star and came to find the shepherd, the one who would be called the Good Shepherd.  Its seems only logical that the shepherds would come to see the shepherd of mankind. So although it was not required to have them in a nativity scene shepherds are often represented in the scene and often quite close to the infant King.

Other figures that were present are angels and depending on the nativity set you are working with will depend on the quality and size of the angel, because it is governed by the artisan. Fontanini nativities have large prominent angels often in opulent colors not exclusively white and they are set to sit atop of the stable or behind the manger to look over the Christ Child.

And no nativity set is complete without the animals, the cows and the camels, the meekest of the earth that come to sit and watch over the baby as he sleeps.

Nativity sets serve as a teaching tool as well as a spiritual guide. It is all in how they are setup as to how effective they are.  

This article was published on Tuesday 29 September, 2009.



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